Sunday, January 18, 2009


Many of us were deeply moved by the stories of flight 1549 United Airways and its pilot "Sully." His competence was flawless, his presence impeccable, and his humility touched our hearts. He did, he said, "what we are trained to do."

This kind of straightforward talk reflects an attitude not only of accepting a high level of competence as a personal standard, but also of the 'servant leader.' Sully checked his plane twice to ensure all passengers under his care where out of the plane.

It's not too big a jump, I hope, to remind ourselves that what we bring to the challenges of marriage requires deep commitment to consistently increase our relational competencies. And, the ability or capacity to love those we love is a necessary competency as well.

What we came into marriage with was perhaps a romantic notion - if we were 'in love' and could stay 'in love' everything would be alright. Nothing wrong with being 'in love.' Feels good, opens communication, deepens commitment. May I not sound Scrooge-like on that. But...

'In love' for most of us comes and goes. A lot of what we feel as 'in love' is hormonal, or seasonal, or biological clock stuff, some of it is fascination and some, good old fashioned desire. But healthy marriages need a deep underground river of loving as well to sustain them through the inevitable challenges of life and marriage.

We call that 'the need to love' and it is the first principle in our philosophy of marriage. While 'in love' may feel good, focusing on loving your partner is good - good for them and good for you. What would loving your partner look like?

Here are a couple of simple ideas:
* loving my honey 'looks like' paying attention to her challenges rather than dismissing or analyzing her. Simple listening, without bringing my own agenda, is helpful for her.
* loving her means withdrawing my theories, diagnoses, analyses, and speculations about her - her motives, her feelings, her intentions - and instead asking her, often, who she is.
* loving her means developing the capacity to get out of my own head once in awhile, to stop whining, stop complaining, stop withdrawing - and be present to her and with her.
* and loving her means including her in my own loneliness, or lostness or wandering. She can take it. She loves me.

Look at Captain 'Sully.' He didn't posture or complain, didn't grandstand, didn't jump off the plane first. He worked for over forty years to become fully competent and when the occasion came he 'simply did his job.' That's what competence is all about.

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