Friday, June 08, 2007

Kludging the Marriage Conversation

Kludging the Marriage Conversation

We’ve often referred to divorce as the abortion of a promise, a miscarriage of hope. We see that many couples who divorce do so because they lack a truly compelling marriage paradigm. ‘What? I thought it was because they were ‘incompatible’ or didn’t love each other any more.’

It’s not that simple. Without a viable and relevant model to inform their thinking about the journey of marriage, they will mistakenly focus on diagnosis of each other.

They may dumb down conversation, reducing their complaints to “we’d have a good relationship if it weren’t for you.” (that, by the way, is the title of an interesting book by Dr. Bruce Derman)

Focusing on what’s wrong with our partners, or indulging in fantasies such as ‘we just don’t have anything in common,’ or ‘love doesn’t last forever,’ or ‘she’s just not the woman I (thought) I married’ – seduce into a rationale that justifies our relational incompetence.

Some of us kludge. I’ll tell you a story about a recent conversation with one of my sons regarding computers, software and solutions to challenges. He described a ‘work around’ which, as I understood it, was a temporary solution to a difficult problem.
“Like divorce” I said. No, he said. “I think of divorce more as giving up on an engineering project – deciding not to engineer rather than actually trying to do the work. A kludge is still work. It’s just a quick solution to get the thing up and running with the knowledge that you will need to come back later and re-engineer it…If you get a divorce, you are deciding to abort the relationship. There may be more work to do with your kids etc. But the couple divorcing is quitting the work (and challenges) of marriage – an engineering project left undone.”

So, I said, maybe we could call an affair a kludge. Or, maybe coldness, distance, abuse, superiority, diagnosis… would qualify to be called kludging. All quick ‘solutions’ to present challenges that do not last.
But the analogy breaks down there. Because in the case of marriage these “solutions” are not only temporary – they get you out of working on the problem or challenge – they are also harmful, toxic and lead towards patterns that ultimately destroy.

But kludge isn’t thought of as a bad temporary solution. It is only a temporary but necessary one. So are there good kludges in relationship?

The recently released With These Rings Vol.I offers long and short term solutions to relationship challenges that actually work. Couples that have given up hope, couples who chronically argue or no longer communicate, couples whose intimate conversations have steadily decreased in frequency find good information and solid coaching in this book. I’m Stephen Frueh, the author, and I promise you you’ll get a great deal of useful information from With These Rings. If you don’t, mail it back to me and I’ll refund your money.

As my wife walked in the front door, arms full of groceries, I said, ‘need help?’ “I need a whole lot more than help with the groceries,” she said as she put the bags on the table. “Wow” I thought. “That’s a loaded response. Should I ‘go there’ or let it go?”

We talked of the demands on her time and energy, of both of our busy schedules, of how little time we had with each other. Later I got some take out and set the table in the RV, put on some classical music, opened a bottle of Sake and we sat and talked. I kludged her.

That brief moment didn’t solve any of our bigger (and long term) challenges, but it did address the immediate need for a course correction. It did keep our marriage going even with all the built in challenges and it reminded us that bigger solutions to busyness had to be addressed.

The many dynamics of successful relationships can overwhelm us. Or we can take a proactive approach, embrace challenge and the conflict that comes with it and intentionally look for lasting solutions to relationship destroyers. Kludge when you have to but don’t forget to come back and create new pathways to intimacy.

If we don’t, every day will look a lot like yesterday.

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