“We had this bicycle,” the lady said. “It was built for two people to ride together. What problems that bicycle caused us!”
“How so?” I asked?
“Well, my husband would ride behind me, on the back seat. I always rode in the front seat and steered. But he wouldn’t peddle! He just let me do all the work. When I applied the brake, then he would start peddling!”
Now, this husband worked against his wife only to tease her, but in many marriages the husband and wife fight against each other over much more serious issues. Rather than making a joint effort towards a common goal, they end up battling for their rights. Each of them has an individual goal and tries to make their spouse go in their direction, at their pace. Marriage becomes a struggle rather than a partnership.
Just like that tandem bike, every marriage takes two partners working together, for you need agreement to ride a bicycle-built-for-two. That makes all the difference. With agreement we develop marital coordination. Without it, we develop marital confusion.
Our son, Matt, grew up watching his mom and I work together in the kitchen. “It’s like a dance,” he told us one evening. “You guys seem to anticipate each other’s actions and move together.” Matt saw our teamwork for what it was: a dance of love. We may not dance the waltz, but we are really good at the kitchen dance. It comes from practice. Years of it.
It is not hard to find the attitudes that kill cooperation. Every coach encounters them when he trains his teams. Every conductor encounters them when building an orchestra. As a counselor, I see them too. Here are a few to consider:
A controlling person always causes tension and unrest, making the ride shaky and unpleasant, even on the smooth parts of the road. They cause more confusion, and less coordination. We don’t get married to control each other, do we? Instead, we want to learn how to work together while pursuing a common goal. That brings so much more fulfillment.
If I am rigid- unbending, and unyielding- I will frustrate our unity. Marriage requires flexibility, and flexibility only comes from humility. That word, humility, can make us feel uncomfortable, right? Don’t fear it. Pursue it, for with a humble, flexible attitude life is easier for everyone.
Coasting, Not Contributing
If I refuse to bear my share of the load, I will sabotage our unity. I know husbands and wives who think that marriage is a free ride, like the man on the tandem bicycle. They will not take any responsibility for their marriage, or make any effort for the sake of their spouses or children. They coast, but they don’t contribute. Start peddling! Your marriage needs your full participation.
Agreement does not mean that the milder partner gives in to the more forceful one, or that the quiet partner gives in to the outspoken one. When that happens hidden conflicts appear. The milder one must learn how to express an opinion or a conviction clearly. And the stronger one must learn to tone down and slow down.
After 45 years of marriage, I am still the more dominant one in the relationship. Actually, Diane likes it that way. But she and I have blended our styles to give our marriage its own unique flavor. It’s not all me, or all her. It is us, expressing life as a unit, though still individuals.
In a letter to some people he loved, Paul expressed this desire:
I urge you, then, to make me completely happy by having the same thoughts, sharing the same love, and being one in soul and mind. (Philippians 2.2, Good News Translation)
Ride on, lovers, ride on!