Nothing is so vital to developing and maintaining a love relationship (or killing it) as the decision- making process. (Virginia Satir)

Nothing is so vital to developing and maintaining a love relationship (or killing it) as the decision- making process. (Virginia Satir)

The chances of spouses having things in common are about 100 percent. Likewise the chances are 100 percent that they will find differences from one another. Bringing up children highlights these kinds of differences. So does making decisions, which is a major part of any coupling process. For many couples, making decisions becomes a battle, either quiet or noisy, as to who has the right to tell whom what to do. When this is the case, each partner feels worse about the other as well as himself or herself every time a decision is made. Each begins to feel lonely, isolated, victimized, angry, betrayed, and depressed. Each lays his or her self-worth on the table every time a decision is pending. After enough battle experience, the feelings of loving and being loved are gone.

Sometimes couples try to avoid these problems by agreeing to let one partner be boss, and having the other go along with the decisions. Another out is to let a third person decide—an in-law, perhaps, or a child, or some trusted per- son from outside the family. Eventually all decisions get made. But how? And what happens as a result?

Let’s pick up on some of the responses and apply them to how you and your spouse make decisions. Do you do it by placating? Bullying? Lecturing? Distracting? Acting indifferent?

Who makes the decisions? How? Do you meet each decision squarely, realistically, and using everybody’s talents?

Do you show you know the difference between competence in handling money and self-worth? (Writing a check is writing a check. It is not a way of showing love or not showing love.)

Here is an example. Before marriage, Manuel managed his money and Alicia managed hers. Now they are married, and they want to handle it together. This calls for a big decision, probably the first big one they make after the wedding.

Manuel says confidently, “Well, I am the man of the house, so I will handle the money. Besides, my father always did.”

Alicia’s response is slightly sarcastic. “Manuel, how can you? You’re such a spendthrift! I naturally assumed I would do it. Besides, my mother always did it that way.”

Manuel’s answer is very quiet. “Well, if you want it I suppose it’s all right. I naturally thought that that way, since I’m your husband, and you love me, you would want me to handle the money. After all, it’s a man’s place.”

Alicia is a little frightened. “Oh, Mannie! Of course I love you! I wouldn’t want to hurt your feelings. Let’s not talk about it any more. Come on, give me a kiss.” What would you say about this decision-making process? Where do you think it will lead? Will it make for more or less love?

Five years later, Alicia says angrily to Manuel, “This company is threatening to sue us! You didn’t pay the bill! I am tired of dodging bill collectors. I am going to take charge of the money, and I don’t care what you think!” Manuel snaps, “The hell with you! Go ahead, and see if you can do any better!” Can you see their problem? They can’t differentiate between their feelings of self-worth and the issue of coping with their finances.

Probably nothing is so vital to developing and maintaining a love relationship (or killing it) as the decision- making process. The difference between the issue in question, and the sense of self-worth around the issue, is worth learning.

Many couples bank on the illusion that since they love each other, all things will happen automatically. Let’s com- pare this situation to someone who, say, wants to build a bridge. An engineer isn’t about to attempt this simply by liking or loving bridges. He or she has to know a good deal about the process before a real and successful bridge will be erected. The analogy applies to relationships.

Couples need to know about the process of relating as partners. We need love and process in family architecture. Neither works by itself.

Let’s carry our analogy a little further. The bridge builder who loves the work is going to endure the struggles and frustrations that are bound to occur in learning the job much more than one who is indifferent to bridge building or who doesn’t expect problems. Even so, the devoted engineer still needs a sense of progress to persist in the job.

So it is with couples. If the “how” in their marriage doesn’t fulfill their hopes and dreams, love goes away. Many people are aware that their love is disappearing without being aware in the slightest degree that it is their process—the “how” in their marriage—that is shoving love out.

Do you remember the love feeling you had for your spouse when you got married? Can you remember how you thought your life would be different? Do you also remember thinking certain problems would be solved by loving? Can you share together what some of these feelings and problems were and what has happened about them? Can you now form a new, more realistic basis for your relationship?




The New Peoplemaking
Virginia Satir



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