The first time a friend told me she was getting a divorce was devastating to me. I was about 25 years old, newly married, and very optimistic about what our generation could accomplish in terms of familial development. At this point, I had foolishly concluded that our parent’s generation had gotten it wrong because of the many freedoms being launched in terms of societal norms, new financial heights, and basic rights that should have been afforded to any citizen (where are you going to live, what school will you attend, how you will raise your children).
This friend and I, we were work friends so we were riding around near the end of our day visiting clients. On these rides, you really get to know a person as you begin talking about some of everything just to pass the time. We were in the midst of a very casual conversation when she said out of the blue, “I’m getting a divorce.” I initially laughed. Looking back on this, I now understand that I initially laughed to offset my true emotional response. Within seconds, I felt tears on my cheeks. Since she was driving, she did not immediately see the shift in my response. It wasn’t until I eeked out, “What? Why?” that she turned to me and said, “Girl, are you crying?”
I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of defeat and I hadn’t even met her husband. But think about it, that didn’t matter. I was going on my notion of our generation getting it right. We wouldn’t perpetuate the broken families. We would stay together not just for our children, but for the sake of family. We would do what it takes to honor one another and build something substantial to give our kids a solid upbringing. Certainly, we wouldn’t get caught up in the same pitfalls as our parents. I had only been married about two years so I needed all of the optimistic thinking one could gather to believe in this journey I was just beginning.
Over the years, I have worked with couples in all phases of the family journey; pre-marital counseling, marriage counseling, doomsday counseling, post doomsday, etc. Sacrifice is one of the most underrated attributes of being a family especially with our living in this period of entitlement. Emerging adults of the 80’s and earlier knew work (hard work) was required to get anything worthwhile. This generation, on the other hand, has been afforded so many luxuries that even when there is hardship – they think it should not happen to them. And this “entitlement syndrome” has permeated just about every age group. People who face trials and tribulations walk around surprised and agitated that things are not coming easily or going their way.
The transition from being one to two or more is a shock to the psyche. It takes some work to pull in another variable when nearly every decision has been made for self. However, there must be a shift if being a part of a family is to be successful. The decisions, great and small, must take into consideration every member of the family. Such a delicate balance is needed to maintain the harmony in a family and this takes work. The question, then, is who puts in the work?
In this microwave popcorn society, who puts in the work?
1.The first step is knowing who you are before you begin a family.
God created you, this wonderful creature, and it’s up to you to maximize the gifts he has blessed you with to glorify Him. Be confident in who God created you to be instead of relying on someone else to define who you are. There may be a lot of twists and turns to becoming you! If you know your goals would drain a spouse and children, work on those before you begin a family, or at least get a good start on those goals before you begin a family.
2. At some point, think carefully about what type of mate and family do you want?
Seek God’s direction as your desires may not be aligned with His desires for your life. It may be based off of what you know you DON’T want for your life. And the attributes may change as you mature or based on your life experiences.
3. Configure the accountability spectrum for yourself.
What are your spiritual beliefs? Spend time studying God’s word to fully understand the plans He has for your life. I’ve counseled people and made plans to do things that were simply out of the will of God based on His word. If you do not spend time getting to know him, you actually rob yourself of some valuable assets. Also, be careful about who you allow to be in your accountability spectrum; relatives, friends, mentors, etc. Who do you hold in esteem and will listen do during times of hardship. Develop your accountability spectrum for yourself and build on it once you enter a relationship.
4. Ensure you understand the goals and desires of your prospective mate and that the mate understands yours goals before you marry.
Take some time to have serious discussions about short-term and long-term goals. It is important to have an understanding about what it would take to reach those goals; time, financial, and personal investments. Include in those discussions how the other fits into the goals of the other and determine if each are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to reach those goals.
5. Configure the accountability spectrum for the family.
As discussed for the individual work in this segment, consider the spiritual beliefs of the family as this builds a solid accountability factor for the family. I’ve worked with couples who did not find out until years later that their spouse had very different views on salvation which clarified the source of many of their problems.
In addition to Godly accountability, what are the other accountability factors in place; marriage mentors, counselor, etc.? And finally, the accountability between the mates. What are the views of marriage? Is it forever or is it an option. Are you all allies or adversaries. Are you willing to sacrifice some of self in order to build a solid family?