Some things are not easily learned outside of an actual marriage, like compatibility.
Of course, the reason most of us fight is because one of us thinks we’re right and the other one is wrong. In my case of course, I am always right, which makes it very difficult for me to understand why my wife keeps insisting that I might be wrong on occasion … she on the other hand, obstinately refuses to admit the error of her ways.
Or is that maybe the other way around?
When we decided to get married, we had pre-marriage counseling, and it was really good. The couple who gave it were trusted, faithful, awesome folks, whose marriage was—and is—a living example of the principles they tried to impart. They have awesome children who also have incredible marriages.
Some things are not so easily learned outside of the actual marriage though. There are those principles where we can read it, discuss it, and then its settled. Then there are those OTHER ideas, those which no matter how much we read or discuss, or even receive great wisdom, do not seem to stick until we work them out together. The hard way.
Some people advocate living together as a means of testing compatibility, before committing to a relationship. I am not sure this logic holds up for a number of reasons, too many to go into here. But the main one is that it doesn’t appear to work! Since people started doing this in significant numbers, we would reasonably expect a positive impact on the divorce rates. But the impact seems to be negative. For this, and other reasons, divorce rates have gone up, not down. And they continue to do so.
The idea, I guess, is to find a partner who is “compatible” with you. So what is this “compatibility” thing? Is it someone who lets us get on with our lives? Someone who doesn’t fight? Someone who willingly gives in to keep the peace? Someone who shares the same values? Someone who likes our mother? (OK, maybe that one wouldn’t be so bad…!)
Compatibility has an easy dictionary definition, but not such an easy real-life definition. “Capable of existing or performing in harmonious, agreeable, or congenial combination with another or others” is the quick one. Compatibility is great.
Generally my experience is that people who want compatibility, actually really want peace. And not just peace, but generally peace on their own terms … If we want compatibility, what should we ACTUALLY be wanting? What is it?
Compatibility, I believe is a duality. A duality is a thing that is made up of two different, possibly opposing, but at least mutually challenging things. They give meaning to the other, like two sides of a coin, but they are not necessarily as intuitive or obvious as a coin. The flip-side of faith, for example, is doubt. The flip side of river, is the river-bed. The flip side of “freedom,” is “boundaries.” They lack meaning without each other.
So what, in my not-so-humble-opinion, are the dual components of compatibility? The things that gives it it’s whole meaning? I would say that they are harmony, and tension. And we need to learn to be in harmonious tension with our partners. Not a destructive tension, like a tug of war, that has a winner and a loser, but more like the tension of a musical instrument, or a river course.
The violin string is nothing on its own. And the violin is nothing without the string. The river is not a river without the river bed.
But they are not at peace. The river grinds the rocks from rough to smooth as it passes over them, and the rocks force the river to follow a course which cannot be easily altered. But where the river wanders there is life, and fertility. A river without a riverbed, is a swamp. A swamp has no such life, only sodden wetness. The ground is good for nothing.
The violin tells a similar story—the string seeks to stress and bend the violin, and only the violin’s inherent strength keeps it in shape and aligned. The frame seeks to stretch the string, and only its inherent flexibility and elasticity keeps it from breaking. But together? Oh my…
They are opposing, and in tension. They strain against each other for dominance, and neither wins. They cannot. By design, their incompatibility creates tension, which when placed in the hands of a violinist the combination creates the potential for incredible, incredible beauty.
And so with us …
As long as we agree that we are imperfect, and as long as we are humble enough to agree that our partners can add value to our journey towards being less and less imperfect, then compatibility equals one part wood, and one part iron. One part water, one part stone. One part peace, one part conflict. One part win, and one part lose. One part hurt, and one part heal. One part apology, and one part forgive. One part stumble, and one part rise up.
One part me, and one part you.
This post originally appeared at Notes From the Road