For an adult, choosing the right partner to accompany you for the rest of your life in the bond of marriage is as important as it is for a child to choose the right friend to accompany him or her to a fun-filled day at Six Flags Amusement Park. In both cases, choosing the wrong partner can have disastrous effects.
A Fun Day at Six Flags?
When I was younger, going to Six Flags was one of the momentous events of the summer. I would save my allowance diligently - Six Flags was not cheap - and plan to get my money's worth by staying all day. But in order for the day to be truly rewarding, I had to be careful to choose the right companion. I never again wanted to make the mistake of inviting someone like my friend Maria to go to Six Flags with me.
The summer I turned eleven, my older sister agreed to chaperone Maria and me at Six Flags. Maria and I were excited the whole way to Six Flags, happily anticipating all the fun we'd have. I could hardly wait to get inside the gates and ride the first roller coaster I saw. Once inside the gates, I started dashing toward the Shockwave, the scariest of all the rides. Maria held back, however, and said, "I don't like roller coasters." I couldn't believer it! Who in their right mind would spend all that money to come to Six Flags and not ride the roller coasters? I looked to my sister for assistance, but she betrayed me. "If Maria doesn't like roller coasters, we'd better find something you both can enjoy. After all, it wouldn't be fair to make her stand in those long, hot lines for nothing." Fair? Of course it wasn't fair--to me! I tried to protest, but my sister said I was being selfish and threatened to take us home.
Not wanting the day to be a total loss, I suggested we ride the parachute ride, but Maria was afraid of heights. Next, I suggested the boat ride, but Maria didn't want to get her hair wet. Exasperated, I shouted, "Why do you come to Six Flags?" Her answer was simple, "For the shows." The next thing you know we were waiting for the Chevy Show, and then the Gun Fight Show, and finally the Dolphin Show. Unhappily I sat in show after show wondering what happened to my sister's idea of doing something we both liked. I guess the problem was that although Maria and I both liked Six Flags we liked it for different reasons.
Finally, the disastrous day ended with me not having ridden a single roller coaster ride. I was completely devastated, but I learned my lesson. Never again would I invite someone to spend the day with me at Six Flags without first making sure our objectives were the same - to ride as many roller coasters as possible.
A Roller Coaster Ride of Misery!
Too often people begin marriages in the same manner that Maria and I began our day at Six Flags. They know that they want to be married, and because they care for each other in a special way they decide to enter marriage together. They realize the cost of marriage is high, but they believe they are willing to pay the price because each partner anticipates having an over-all positive experience. Unfortunately, because they do not thoroughly determine before marriage their likes and dislikes, their goals and expectations, and the way in which they plan to meet their individual and joint needs, they often end up feeling disillusioned and cheated. This feeling can be especially frustrating when it seems as though one partner is getting his or her "way" most of the time. Sometimes people clearly know that their partners' needs, desires, personality, and values are incongruent with their own, but because they want the relationship so much, they are willing to short-change themselves and compromise who they are. But when you short-change yourself, you only end of short-changing the marriage, and then no one is happy.
Picking a marriage partner and then staying with that partner is never easy. However, the more information you have about yourself and your potential mate before you make a commitment, the greater chance you have of creating a marriage that will last a lifetime without being a roller coaster ride of misery.
Written by Michelle Stewart in 1996
The Relationship Repair and Care Clinic