Many of the elements in this activity have been raised and discussed in Part Two of this book. They are here being specifically applied to the marriage relationship, keeping in mind that marriage includes being friends, being partners, and being lovers. Each element in the activity should, then, be considered in terms of the individual’s functioning within the core triangle – friends, partners, lovers.
Since many of the elements have been previously discussed and several are self-explanatory, this section will only focus on a few of the elements, highlighting points that might be overlooked and points warranting special consultation attention. The consultant will want to take care to incorporate those points raised in earlier discussion sections.
Being helpful to each other is a straight forward concept. Its application to being friends and being lovers is sometimes overlooked, however. Within the friendship dimension, the client needs to be sure that she is doing all she can do to facilitate activities, social opportunities, comfortable communication, and a sincere friendship orientation. Within the lovers dimension, being helpful includes doing what one can to increase the comfort and satisfaction levels of her spouse, modeling an appropriate level of sexual initiative and skill, and responding to the sexual needs and interest of the other. The idea is that being helpful implies facilitating the involvement and satisfaction of one’s spouse.
Valuing the relationship is more complex than one might first think. Of course, this includes communicating one’s valuing of the relationship to the marriage participant but also includes communicating valuing in ways that are understood and valued by the spouse. “What kinds of things do you interpret as indicating that your spouse values the relationship? What kinds of things does your spouse interpret as meaning that you value the relationship?” It is not enough to simply value the relationship. This valuing must be communicated in ways that are understood and meaningful from the other person’s point of view. Priority might be given to being helpful but also might be seen in terms of hanging in there and dealing with the ups and downs or in terms of manifestations of acceptance and faith in the other person. The notion is that valuing of the relationship needs to be communicated. This communication, in turn, comes through some prioritized mix of the elements in this activity.
Talking with each other is a similarly complex component of the marriage interaction. How one talks, how often one talks, what one talks about, and how responsive the talking is to the other person are all important ingredients. It is not enough to simply talk. One must “communicate” with the talking focusing on each dimension of the core triad and on what is really going on at a day-to-day level. In addition, talking needs to expand to dreams, fears, hopes, aspirations, frustrations, and the full range of life and living.
Talking is for the purpose of conveying what is happening with the individual but also has the equally important purpose of letting the other person know that she is acknowledged, understood, and appreciated. The consultant will want to work with the individual in terms of assuring that talking is considerably more than just talk.
Accepting the other person as she is or as he is may be one of the toughest parts of marriage effective functioning. When all is said and done, people are not going to change very much. Either they are accepted “pretty much” as they are or they are to spend their lives being, to some extent, rejected. Keep in mind that, if one is not accepted, the experience for the individual is one of being rejected. People can become more effective friends, more effective partners, and more effective lovers. Nonetheless, who they fundamentally are is not going to change very much. Expecting the other person to become more skilled and more effective is reasonable. To not accept her on a relatively as-is basis though, is an exercise in frustration for both spouses and is probably one of the quickest ways to sabotage and undermine the ongoing growth of the marriage.
The above, at its essence, brings into central focus the importance of each spouse being able to depend on the other. Yes, this includes depending on the other to do things, keep commitments, and be there when needed. More fundamentally, though, depending on the other person also includes knowing that she really does understand your needs and interest, will not turn on you, accepts you on an as-is basis, will help you feel special and important, and is a worthy guardian of your self-esteem and self-respect.
Adjusting to each other within a marriage relationship is a central factor in the success of that relationship. Many times, couples will understand this as “compromising in.” The reality is that people do not actually compromise very often and then usually only with some sense of frustration and a sense of having given up or given away something important. Adjusting to each other is not the same as compromising, then. It is, rather, a process of understanding each other’s priorities, preferences, and idiosyncrasies. Each spouse then adjusts and accommodates to the style of the other in ways that encourage and facilitate the styles of each, without requiring either to give up things or elements of self that are important and valued.
The real skill here is coming up with arrangements and approaches that do not require either spouse to compromise or give up things that are important. The creative arrangement is such that both are able to be who they are, with style, all the time, on purpose. The only expectation is that both individuals are people with style and that the style of each reflects a positive sense of self and orientation to the other. Important here is the idea of interest which will be discussed in more detail in the activity dealing with negotiating.
Being positive and constructive in the context of representing a good interpersonal model may be thought of as incorporating and summarizing each of the balance elements in the activity. The consultant may help the client use the RECIPES approach to her marriage functioning especially in terms of recognizing positive participation in the marriage as contracted with negative, destructive, or counterproductive participation. It is fair to first judge any incident or event in terms of the client’s functioning and to judge that functioning based on its positive, constructive contribution to the relationship and on the extent to which it may serve as a model or guide for future functioning.