SCRUBCO: The letter O for Open to Change-
Let’s face it; we humans are creatures of habit. The first thing my son’s pediatrician told me after his birth, “get him on a schedule. It’ll make everyone’s life easier. And he’ll be happier.” I tried to follow that advice, setting up scheduled feeding times, nap times, bath time, and bedtime. Eventually, whether he put me on his schedule, or I put him on mine, it seemed to work. During both my sons’ toddler years, they delighted in the ritual of bedtime: bath, pajama selection, story, lullaby and prayers. The predictability of it created an atmosphere of safety, which soothed them into their dream state.
Is our need for familiarity that much different in adulthood? Human beings, no matter what their age, find comfort in knowing what’s going to happen next. And when the unpredictable happens like a natural disaster, car accident, or violent attack, we find it most therapeutic to recalibrate ourselves with tradition and ritual as cleansing for both the body and the spirit.
The concept of marriage is attractive to many people because it’s the ultimate promise of familiarity. Knowing your partner, his likes, dislikes, habits and desires creates a kind of certainty that keeps us anchored. Even when these habits and characteristics seem more like character flaws, we often struggle to maintain the status quo because in the words of a friend of mine who was contemplating divorce, “at least with him, I know what I’m getting.”
While maintaining homeostasis, or standing still, may be an effective way to function for a time, life just doesn’t operate on that principal alone. In fact, a certain amount of chaos, uncertainty and change are inevitable and provide our greatest opportunities for growth.
The same is true of marriage. A marriage that requires both parties to stagnate is unhealthy. The dynamic relationship that encourages fluidity and creativity between partners has a far greater chance for survival because what’s more malleable is less likely to break.
That’s why, the final concept in SCRUBCO, Open to Change, may be the most important concept of all. To be clear, I’m not talking about someone’s willingness to try a new restaurant. Open to Change refers to a person’s ability to explore new possibilities for personal transformation and growth. When each party is open to change it means each is willing to reframe her thinking, which impacts how she operates in the world. In other words, it refers to a person’s willingness to explore and adapt her world-view as she collects new knowledge and life experiences.
I’m not saying being open to change is easy. And if only one person is open to change, while the other remains metaphorically stuck, parties risk creating a relationship that’s out of balance in regard to power. To nurture a marriage where both parties are open to change requires all the other SCRUBCO concepts. Sharing goals, creating safe space for good communication, respecting each other, practicing uniting behaviors, having similar beliefs, and learning to collaborate build a strong foundation for engaging in a dynamic marriage.
No doubt, marriage has the potential to be a profoundly rewarding experience. But a word of caution: the most important relationship you’ll ever have is the relationship you have with yourself. If you sacrifice that one, every other relationship is sure to be damaged.