So, what is “the marriage code”? It is a combination of usernames and passwords that grant you access to the best parts of your relationship. When these codes are in place, your relationship appears to be relatively easy. The way you interact, love, argue, and make decisions is satisfying for you as a couple. When the code is missing, all the systems of your relationship are awkward. You fail in your attempts to connect emotionally, your love for each other is elusive, and you seem to disagree on just about everything.
The following are important truths you need to know about your marriage code:
· It is obvious when the code is in place because your relationship works well.
· It is just as obvious when the code is not in place because almost everything is out of sync.
· Entering the marriage code into your relationship is a daily exercise. In the same way that you need to enter a username and password into your computer each time you start it up, your love relationship needs an access code every day.
· The marriage code is based on the most common needs that men and women have.
You may be asking, “Why do we need a code to figure each other out? Can’t it just be simple? Can’t we discover a rhythm for our relationship and stay in that rhythm?” We hate to have to say to you that it is just not that simplistic. You are very different from one another, and you have different needs at the core of who you are. These needs shape the way you approach life and the way you interact in relationships.
So, just what are these core needs? Every person has the need to be secure and to be successful. Security is the belief that it is safe to be who I am. Somewhere along the path of your life, you come to the realization that you have only so much control over your life. You have been given a personality that determines your preferences and motivations. You have been created either male or female with all the hormonal, emotional, and social challenges that go along with your gender. You have a certain level of intellectual prowess and talents that you can apply to your life. Finally, you have a body that is remarkable in its abilities but vulnerable to your environment. As a result, you must devote energy in your life to developing and maintaining a secure environment for yourself and your loved ones.
Success is the belief that my life is workable. I can do what is required of me in the pursuits and responsibilities that I have committed to. It includes having a productive career and making enough money for the family, but it is not limited to this. Your sense of success will also encompass the way you interact with each other, raise your children, take care of your body, cope with stress, make decisions, and manage your time. It will also be expressed in your sense of purpose. You may not be able to clearly state your purpose, but you have a sense of whether your life matters, and you like life better when it feels like it matters.
The Balancing Act
As a single person, you were probably good at keeping these needs in balance. Since you could make all the decisions for your life, you were free to develop just how much you wanted to focus on security and how much you wanted to focus on success. During your dating years, it was probably also relatively simple to maintain the balance you are most comfortable with because you could always go back to your home at the end of the day. Even if you encountered rough times, you would naturally take a break from one another, reestablish your equilibrium as an individual, and then get back together again.
Then you decided to get married. As a couple, you have probably discovered that you approach security and success differently.
The Quest for Security
For most women, security is a more vibrant and common need than success. It isn’t that we don’t want to succeed; it is simply that we view success as a means for providing security. The need to feel secure is the need we feel most often, and it determines the quality of everything in our lives. Security is often difficult for men to understand because it is all consuming in our lives, and it changes faces quickly. Security in our lives includes:
· Physical safety
· Having enough money to meet our family’s needs
· Being valued by the people we love the most
· Having opportunities to express ourselves and our convictions
· Having opportunities to be productive
· Having a place to call home
· Having time to take care of ourselves
· Being pampered every once in a while
· Knowing that my husband cares about the things that are important to me
· The freedom to be who I am today
Without a doubt, the last statement, “the freedom to be who I am today,” is at the heart of what it means to be secure. As women, our lives are constantly changing. It begins with the “gift” of menstruation. This lovely part of our lives guarantees that our emotions, our bodies, and our outlook on life are in constant motion. Some days we feel great about ourselves and are ready to face any challenge. On other days, we feel bloated and ugly and worthless. Still other days find us sad, anxious, and overreacting. And these days come and go every month! As a result, we are very “interesting” to live with.
You might have clues your wife is struggling with PMS when:
· She stops reading Glamour and starts reading Guns and Ammo.
· She considers chocolate a major food group.
· She retains more water than Lake Superior.
· She denies she’s in a bad mood as she pops a clip into her semiautomatic and chambers one.
· She buys you a new T-shirt with a bull’s-eye on the front.
· You ask her to please pass the salt at the dinner table, and she says, “All I ever do is give, give, give! AM I SUPPOSED TO DO EVERYTHING?”
· She enrolls in the Lizzie Borden School of Charm.
· She orders three Big Macs, four large fries, a bucket of Chicken McNuggets, and then screams at the manager because they’re out of Diet Coke.
In our hearts, we long to find someone who will accept us and love us through the good days and bad days that happen so close to each other. We carry a silent fear that our emotional swings will eventually drive away our husbands, which make this need even more sensitive. As a result, we often react to our spouses with either outbursts or silence. Our reactions tend to be so strong that our husbands actually think we are confident about what we are doing.
This misinterpreted confidence most often shows up in conversation. It has been proven that we women can sense when something is wrong in the important relationships in our lives. When the realization hits us, we begin to bring up the issues. We may not know exactly what the issue is; we just know there is one. Our poor husbands think we know what the issue is because we approach the conversation with such intensity. We don’t want to admit that we are searching because that will make us feel incompetent and insecure. We may even be aware that we are being unreasonable, but we continue with the hope that he can handle us.
Bill and I were sitting at my computer working on a project together. I didn’t know why, but I was upset with him. Everything he said to me was irritating. His ideas felt like controlling statements. I felt a strange resistance in my heart to everything he wanted to do. Bill tried numerous times to break through, to no avail.
In frustration, he finally blurted out, “Wow, you really miss me, don’t you?”
It was as if a plug was pulled and all the frustration drained out of me. He had nailed my emotional need for security right on the head. His schedule had been so hectic during that time of our life, I began to wonder if he thought I was more important than his work and if I would ever have his full attention again. Just having him notice my pain was enough to release it. I immediately relaxed in my chair, smiled at Bill, and sheepishly said, “Yes. Could you tell?” Of course he could tell. He had just pointed it out, but I wanted to hear him say it.
His acceptance and compassion for who I was changed the environment of the rest of the day. It was one of those days for me as a woman when things look overwhelming, and I needed to hear that I was secure with Bill. I still battled frustration all day, but we faced it together rather than me taking it out on Bill.
Copyright © 2009 by Bill & Pam Farrel, adapted from The Marriage Code, published by Harvest House Publishers. Used with permission.