During college in the 1990s, I first read the little book, Be Good To Each Other, by Lowell and Carol Erdahl. I was struck by how simple the title was. Now, after more experience of life and of my own marriage, I find the title to be quite profound. Striving to “be good” to each other is such a straightforward, kind and loving goal. I like the simple idea of being good to each other on purpose and believing the best about the other.
An Attitude and an Action
“Be good.” It is an attitude AND an action. So often, we give all our “good” away during the day to other people – at work, at school, here and there throughout the day. When we get home, we want to let down. Often, we end up taking our frustrations or exhaustion out on our partners, those with whom we want to be our best and whom we want to treat with the absolute best intention.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (I Corinthians 13: 4-7, NIV)
I am struck by how this book approaches the marital realities of gender roles, boredom in a relationship, and seeking counseling as a couple:
1. Unique Skills and Strengths
Instead of adhering to rigidly defined gender roles, a couple can appreciate the differences in gender by considering each partner’s unique skills and strengths – apart from the topic of gender roles. For example, find out who really is the strongest ultimate decision-maker and go with that person when making final decisions. Ultimately it is about respecting the other’s comfort levels and gifts, rather than getting your own way. It is about discovering unique ways of partnering and deciding together based on your particular relational combination.
2. Boredom in a Relationship
Boredom can be a sign that your marriage needs help, or that you need to create more space for yourself to pursue dreams and fulfillment on your own. It is easy for couples to find themselves in a rut, thinking they know everything about the other, when that is never true. There are ways to cultivate and foster a sense of mystery as you consider the reality that there is more to the other than you see from your current perspective.
3. Fostering Communication through Christian Counseling
Counseling can foster communication that goes further and is more productive than would be the case if you and your partner were having the conversation alone. Often this is because there are tensions and defenses built up through the months and years. There are topics where you just “don’t go” anymore, since they always lead to misunderstandings and hurts – places where you feel you have lost your voice. We all have defenses which can lead one or both partner to shut-down (stonewalling, dissociation due to intense feelings of hopelessness, exhaustion, contempt and/or shame) or which lead to yet another fight. It is possible to come to a place of “communing” through your communication. (Dan Allender in Intimate Allies).
Christian Counseling as a Valuable Tool
I hope that you can see Christian counseling as a resource available to you, much like a book or a seminar you might attend. The healthiest relationships I know of are those of couples who are invested and open enough to consider counseling at one time or another during the course of their life together. Christian counseling can serve as a check-in, as education for how to communicate more effectively, or as a tool used to productively and lovingly talk through a particular issue, rather than just repeating the same conversation without ever coming to resolution. If you feel that your marriage would benefit from such a tool, I would encourage you to consider calling a Christian counselor today.
Erdahl, Lowell and Carol. (1991) Be Good to Each Other. Augsburg Fortress.
“Couple on Swings” from office.microsoft.com; “Wonderful People” from flickr