A Harmonious Marriage | Prepare-Enrich

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NOTE: Couples in The Relationship Dynamics Series are composites of multiple people. Names and personal details have been changed to protect their identities.

Matthew and Kristie had a great relationship – if you were outside looking in. And their PREPARE/ENRICH data indicated that they were doing well. But Kristie was extremely frustrated with her husband. He seemed to be totally unmotivated, and she couldn’t get him to follow through on anything, no matter how hard they tried. So she reached out to me for help.

Today we’re continuing our series on Relationship Dynamics by exploring some specific examples of different types of married couples. All of my Couple’s Programs include three components: evaluation, education, and experimentation – otherwise known as skill-building.

One of my favorite evaluation tools is PREPARE/ENRICH, which has been taken by more than 4 million couples. In this video, we’ll take a look at two of the scales: Couple Typology and Relationship Dynamics. Then I’ll share how I used the assessment information to inform my work with a Harmonious Couple who had excellent Relationship Dynamics.

Meet Matthew and Kristie

In their early 30s, Matthew and Kristie been married for almost two years when I met them. Their scores revealed strengths in Spiritual Beliefs and Family and Friends. On the other hand, they were not doing as well in terms of Partner Style and Habits, Leisure Activities, and Roles and Responsibilities. And they definitely were having problems in terms of Financial Management.

However, they had excellent Relationship Dynamics.

Both of them scored high on assertiveness an self-confidence, and low on avoidance and partner dominance. Exactly where a healthy couple would be. So what motivated Kristie to reach out to me for help?

Here’s the rest of their story. 

Kristie owned her own business, and it was doing well. So Matthew went to work for his wife. She treated him the same as her other employees. No favoritism. But that was a problem for her husband. Does that make him sound like the bad guy?

Let’s talk about that.

Over the years, I’ve worked with many entrepreneurial couples, mostly the ones who weren’t doing well, of course. Working together brings special challenges. Husbands need respect from their wives. They need to feel like they are the leaders. They don’t if they have a wife who behaves like mother figure, nor do they want to work for and be told what to do by a wife.

It took a minute for Kristie to grasp that, but she caught on quickly. She promoted him to her partner in the business. She was more aware of how she interacted with her husband about work. It seemed like the best solution.

But that didn’t work either.

Their new arrangement actually increased the tension between them when Matthew failed to follow through on tasks and often missed important deadlines.

So what else was going on?

Men and women are different. Always have been. Always will be. One of the ways men are different from women is in the course of their lifespan development. And where they are in the process of life will affect what they think, how they feel, and why they do the things they do – instead of something else.

Women’s development is different.

We tend to be adapters. That is, we can pretty much bloom wherever we’re planted … if we want to bloom, that is. We adapt to men, and we adapt to children. We adapt to our family of origin, and we adapt to the society in which we live. Whether we want to admit it or not, the course of female development is often highly dependent upon what’s going for others.

For example, it’s not unusual for a woman to obtain a college degree, build a career, then marry and have children. When the kids come along, a woman may take a break from her career or cut back on her hours in favor of being a mom.

It’s also not unusual for a woman to marry young, help her husband through college, and forego her own degree and career until her children are older or out of the house.

Nor is it unusual for a woman to forego marriage to take care of an aging or ill parent or other family member. She may also join the military, fight in war, or run a business. For women, the possibilities seem endless.

Men adapt, too, of course.

But in general, their development is a bit more predictable … a bit more linear. And with all the challenges that brings, they have even more reason to need women … and for women to be really great at adapting.

Nothing was wrong with Matthew.

He was simply in the Third Stage of Male Development. The Hero Stage begins in a man’s early 20s and ends in his mid-40s, give or take a few years. He’d found his princess, but he’d not yet established his career path. In a nutshell, running a business was not Matthew’s gift.

In fact, he didn’t even know what his gift was.

And that was showing up for him in what he thought, how he felt, and what he did about financial management. Once he realized where he was in the process of his own lifespan development, he was able to talk with his wife and elicit her support.

Instead of trying to force fit himself into his wife’s business, he felt free to pursue what God was calling him to do. The last I heard from them, they were not only doing better as a couple, they were heavily involved in a new Christian ministry they’d created together. How cool is that?

Next, I’ll introduce you to a Conventional Couple, Serge and Sabrina, and tell you whether or not coaching helped this particular couple increase their connection and contentment.

Take care, and I’ll see you in the next post.