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Editor’s note: This is the third article in a series on the Myths of Marriage. They are drawn partially from the Eyres’ forthcoming book by the same name and are intended as a preview for our readers. The myths are eight erroneous beliefs that are discouraging and undermining marriages throughout the world and particularly within the Church. Today’s article is on the second myth. The previous article in this series can be read here.
MYTH: Achievements are harder and take more work than relationships.
TRUTH: Relationships are, both in the short-term and the long-term, always more important than achievements; and they are usually harder.
- SUB-MYTH: The home supports the career.
TRUTH: The career supports the home.
- SUB-MYTH: Achievements can be pursued, while relationships just happen.
TRUTH: Relationships, particularly the marriage relationship, deserve the most “pursuing” of all; and relationship goals can be as effective as achievement goals.
- SUB-MYTH: Parenting is more work than marriaging, and good parents are almost always good marriage partners.
TRUTH: Good marriages take constant effort and almost always make for better parenting—but this doesn’t necessarily work the other way around.
- SUB-MYTH: Marriage is about two individuals, and it works best if the families stay out of it.
TRUTH: Your marriage, like it or not, is the joining of two families, so you might as well embrace it. Our in-laws can become our in-loves; the more positive and proactive we are about extended family relationships, the more we will get and the more we will give.
A’S VERSUS R’S
We love this old cliché: “No one on their deathbed says, ‘Oh how I wish I had spent a little more time with the business.’”
The longer we live, the more we realize that relationships are what really matter. Our real legacy is our children, our friends, and—most of all—the marriage we have lived.
Most of us know what our priorities should be, yet the way we live our lives is often so out of sync with what we know matters most. Achievements and accomplishments and accumulation pull at our thoughts, our time, and our energy, leaving too little for our relationships.
The things of our life are somehow more measurable than the people. We can set goals for the things, positions, and status we want, but the relationships seem harder and more nuanced, lending themselves less to objectives and deliberate pursuit. How do you set a goal for a relationship? “We’ll be 50 percent perfect in five years and 100 percent perfect in ten years?” It just doesn’t work as well. Additionally, we get rewards, bonuses, and recognition for accomplishments but not for relationships.
Should the relationships of our lives support our achievements, or should it be the other way around? Do we ask our marriage and our families to bend and flex to accommodate our careers? Or should we view our careers as the support mechanism for our relationships?
Which is the end and which is the means?
It is interesting to think of life in a sort of binary way, being made up of two primary things: achievements and relationships, or A’s and R’s. Almost everything we do—every ounce of energy we expend, every goal or plan we have—is aimed at one or the other. Both are broad categories.
Achievements can take place at work, in sports or music, in church or community pursuits, and in the everyday tasks of life. Relationships exist with spouse, children, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and even strangers. It is hard to think of anything we do or would want to do that is not some kind of an A or an R.
Most people, when asked which of the two is more important to them, choose relationships. We tend to think of achievements as things and of relationships as people, and most of us declare that people are more important than things.
Yet when we calculate or keep track of how much time and mental energy we devote to each, we usually get the opposite result. We seem to work harder at achievements than at relationships.
Why is this the case?
Perhaps it is because we are generally better at (and better trained for) achievements than relationships. Very little of our schooling deals with relationships, and at work we are more often measured by our achievements than by our relationships.
We know how to set achievement goals; they lend themselves to time frames, sequencing, percentages, and short-term goals that lead to long-term goals. If I want to make a certain amount of money in ten years, I can figure out what I have to do this year and next year and the year after that, and I can measure exactly how far I still have left to go.
If I want a promotion at work, I can set the goals and make the plans to get what I want. If I want a new car, I can quantify how much it costs and how much I need to save for it or pay on it each month.
But how do we do that goal-setting and quantifying with our relationship goals? As mentioned, the “100 percent perfect marriage in ten years, so 10 percent perfect this year” doesn’t work very well. How do we quantify and subdivide our R goals? They are simply not the same as A goals!
But that doesn’t mean we can’t set relationship goals that will work—effective relationship goals can be set and pursued, but we need to go about it in a different way, by describing the relationship we want in five years and then living and acting as though that description were true today.
To pre-order a copy of The 8 Myths of Marriaging, CLICK HERE.