Be the Spouse not the Parent
This is the third lesson in our discussion of the Parent–Child-Adult within each one of us. I will be honest. Some people tell me that they have difficulty getting their minds around the idea that we have three different people living inside our heads! It is not hard for me because I have listened to hundreds of couples tell me of their battles. I listen to who said what to whom (and then back and forth a few dozen times). In just a few minutes I can see the patterns of who is working in the Parent and who is working in the Child (or both trying to be the dominate Child and this one is very bad). Most of the time couples have the same arguments over and over again once they establish a pattern. Once I see the pattern of how they interact with each other, I can make recommendations that will allow them to disagree without continuing to do damage to their relationship.
The solution to our problem is a healthy “Adult”
There is a point in our development that some call the “age of accountability” where we become self-aware. The age of the child can vary but it is usually in pre-adolescence. At that important point the individual begins to see themselves with some objective perspective and can judge their own role and identity. That change signals the first appearance of the “Adult”. In simple terms, a healthy Adult can effectively think about the impact of what is said and done upon the other people that surround them. In the video link to this lesson, I tell of how Judy and I made our three kids write down several reasons “Why I should not have done that to my sister” kind of punishment for broken rules. We wanted them to start thinking about the impact of what they were doing to their companions very early! We wanted to force them to “scold themselves” instead of just listening to us tell them why they should not do those things.
There are many resources to help you grow a healthy Adult
The Adult is the center within our personality that keeps every element of who we are in proper balance. We want the Child to have fun on “date-night” but the Adult needs to keep the Child from getting carried away and getting into trouble. Letting the Parent control the Child would only spoil the evening because the “scolding” would kill the enjoyment. The Adult is the one part of us that can see the value of what the Child is doing and still be gentle as it sets boundaries to the fun. Use all of the resources you can find to help you learn how to love.
The reason is simple, real love takes WORK. It takes careful thought. Love requires getting an advanced degree in learning about that other person! There is going to be home work. There are going to be pop quizzes. There are going to be tests and examinations. And there are going to be final exams (or at least some of our conflicts will seem like we are cramming for a huge final). REMEMBER: The Parent and the Child are set on “automatic” and they don’t have the commitment or the focused attention to the problem to figure out the complexities and find the loving responses.
There are going to be set backs
The Adult is not a permanent or fixed part of your personality. The Parent was programmed years ago so it can function with little or no conscious thought. The Child is set with a “hair trigger” and only needs a small spark to set off a large explosion. It is the Adult that you have developed and encouraged that is prepared to make the effort to work and to give serious thought to the problem you face. Even after you have studied, listened and learned, when you are worn down and physically exhausted, your Adult will often cease to function and you will pull out one of the old Parent tapes or explode with one of the Child eruptions.
Think of the Adult as though it were a gas tank or reservoir of thought, study and planning. Everyone can get the picture of the gas tank running dry when there have been no periodic “refueling” times.
Jesus came to show us the way to Love
There is no better place where you can find the tools, the attitudes, and the lessons on true love that build a dynamic Adult within you than in the person and teaching of Jesus. He knew the hearts of mankind and he still loved us. He understood our foolishness and sin but still forgave us and set us back up on our feet to try it again when we had fallen down. Read the stories of Jesus and you will see a man who took a group of people who were his closest followers and taught them how to love as he had loved. You can become one of those followers of Jesus and you can learn those same lessons! You can dedicate yourself to learning from Him how to love and become a blessing on everyone around you. There is no better way to learn how to love than to learn from the BEST!