“Happily ever after is not a fairy tale. It’s a choice.”
A few days ago, I found myself talking with a member of our church community. Barb was telling me about her marriage to Bob.
“We seem to have a lot of fights,” she said, “but we are also pretty affectionate and have a good time together when we are not fighting. I am not sure if I should be worried or not.”
I was so glad she hadn't asked me the question a month earlier, because I had just gotten some new information about marriage which would be useful to her.
“Well, you know, it's not necessarily fighting that indicates trouble. It's what goes along with the fighting. Studies show that you can have a great marriage, whether it's the perfect romance of TV and movies, or whether there are some fights, or even if it's a subdued marriage. But there is one marriage characteristic which can definitely show whether the marriage is going up or down. Let me tell you about it,” I went on.
“You see, it's like this. Every couple has many interactions with each other each day. The question is, how many good-feeling interactions are they having, and how many negative interactions?
Barb looked puzzled. “OK. So what does it matter how many good-feeling interactions?”
It was clear I had failed to make my point understandable. So I tried again.
“Let me try to explain a different way. The more times you get a smile from Bob, or he pats you on the back or compliments you, the better. BUT he needs to be giving you at least 5 or more smiles or compliments to any single frown or complaint, for your marriage to happily survive.
“According to the research, it doesn't matter so much whether you fight, or get along quietly that affects your marriage outcome,. It's whether each of you is giving your partner at least 5 positive interactions to every negative.”
Barb's eyes brightened and she smiled. “OK. I get it now. So maybe I'd better start keeping a count of what I am giving Bob, and what is the ratio?”
I smiled back. “Yup. Just remember it is 5 or more positives to each negative. If you find yourself coming up short, you can change the ration to 5:1 quick enough!”
Just as we were beginning to go our different directions I had one extra thought to spare. “You know, it might be interesting to invite Bob to do it with you. He keeps track of his ratio and you yours. And then you can compare. Might be interesting for you both to see!” I said.
She laughed. “You know, he just might enjoy doing this. He always has enjoyed data gathering.”
What will they discover about themselves? Maybe we'll hear back from Barb or Bob sometime soon.
Education Is Prayer
John Holt, an educator many in my generation looked to (I’m 71), once laid out a valuable piece of wisdom. What we need when we work with children, Holt said (I am paraphrasing from memory), is faith and courage: faith that young people really do want to make sense of the world they live in, and the courage to allow them to do it without constantly poking, prodding, motivating, rewarding, punishing, grading and otherwise harassing them to do what their natural enthusiasm and curiosity would lead them to do of their own accord.
In my last piece, I wrote about academically gifted children, so let me be clear here that Holt was speaking about all children, regardless of ability, and in this column, so am I. In my quarter century in the classroom I have come to believe that all young people absolutely do want to learn, and that our task as the parents and adults in their lives is to facilitate that learning process. Not dominate it, not “let it happen,” but facilitate it.
To me, “facilitate” has a very specific meaning – something I have named E-DOT, an initialism for “Environment – Direction – Ownership – Time.” More about that in my next column.
But here I want to take the conversation in another direction. While our responsibility for our children’s education concerns, to use the old expression, “readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmetic,” that responsibility also has a spiritual dimension.
I have a mantra in my work with students: “Let’s walk together for a while, you and I.” That “walk together” is a collaborative, non-judgmental, non-adversarial way of working with each child. It takes account of each child’s unique strengths, enthusiasms and energy. It always smiles, always accepts. It is always patient and never pushes, but rather nudges and suggests. It does not use words like “mistake,” because I believe that there is no such thing as a mistake in the learning process, but only feedback that students (and adults) can learn from.
Education is, in the end, a process of working together and allowing positive energy to dominate the learning process.
An invitation from Pastor Eastman
Any time you think that some one-on-one conversation might be useful in strengthening your marriage, contact me, Pastor Eastman, at OurChaplain.com / MarriageChaplain.com. We know many counselors and healers who provide great support to couples, and my job is to help you connect with someone who is a good fit to help you move forward in your loving and working relationships. Calling me is best because you will get a quicker response: 513 853 6180, but Pastor@OurChaplain.com or text 513 703 8196 will also work.