By Lindy Earl
I recently heard the line, “They don’t call you a Marine until you graduate.” This is true of every military branch – you need to graduate from Boot Camp to be a Soldier, a Sailor, or an Airman. It’s also true of College. You’re not an Alum, you’re not degreed, until you finish all the qualifications. You can become a spouse, however, by reciting a vow. Some people take these vows more seriously than others.
I propose that there should be some classes you need to pass before you can become a spouse. First, a Communication class. Learn how to express your feelings in a non-judgmental way. Also learn to listen to hear and understand, not just to respond. Also learn non-verbal communication and how helpful or damaging it can be. The silent treatment may be an effective way of communicating your anger, but is not a mature or healthy approach to communication.
Anger management class. This could be included in Communication, but in case it’s not, it’s important to know that there are good and bad ways of handling anger. First, acknowledge and accept that anger happens. It will occur. An anger-free relationship doesn’t exist, and if you believe you are in one, then maybe somebody isn’t really committed to the relationship or is failing to show true feelings. But anger has to be handled well, not in fits and bursts. You can choose to take a break or you can really listen and take a minute to think about what is being said before responding. Anger should never come out ugly, in action or word.
Another class, whether you call it Math or Economics or Finance, is about being responsible with money. Finances are so darn simple! There is income and outgo. That’s it! Both partners have to be committed to a positive financial situation. It saves so many challenges later.
History. Two people, no matter how early they marry, come with baggage. The older you are, the more history you bring. Leave your history behind. Do not put behavior of others on your spouse. Just because your parent was a yeller doesn’t mean your spouse will be. Just because a first marriage had issues doesn’t mean the next relationship has to. Keep history in the past, where it belongs.
Commitment. It’s sad that there needs to be a class in commitment, but I’ve found there is a huge need for this. The rules are written right into the wedding vows – in sickness and in health, richer or poorer. Were they just words that day? Did someone fail to understand that they were making a commitment? Synonyms for commitment are dedication, devotion, allegiance, loyalty, faithfulness, and fidelity. They all say the same thing – stick it out and don’t cheat; keep working at the relationship!
Social Studies. This could be a fun class to take together. Find an Atlas and discuss what you want to learn and where you want to go. Travel is a wonderful way of adding to your education in a myriad of ways – new regions, new cultures, possibly new languages. This is a class to be taken together.
Home Ec. This is often a forgotten class, and was too often, in the olden days, limited by gender. Not so today! Everyone should know how to cook, bake, and keep a home organized and clean. Women can do outside work as well as men can do inside chores. Many hands make light work, right? I also think there’s great camaraderie in sharing tasks. There is something sexy about cooking together.
Now, just passing each class isn’t quite sufficient. I believe you need to be able to apply information across courses. So while you’re working on chores together, ensure communication lines are open and flowing well. If you know a better place to stay on an excursion, don’t allow anger to keep you from sharing your thoughts.
As a Professor, I’ve had students tell me that they knew more than their professors. It may be true in some rare cases, but in the majority of the cases, I believe they are wrong. If you’re entering a relationship thinking you already know everything you need to know about relationships and your partner, you’re probably misguided. You should never stop learning.
One last point, I’m not suggesting that this is an exhaustive list. Add your own classes, be it auto repair or HVAC. You can add language classes or art. Maybe entomology is of interest to you so it’s important that your partner isn’t squeamish about bugs. Add your own courses and share your thoughts in your dating process so you’re ready to pass your final and graduate to walking down the aisle.
That’s Life After Divorce.
Lindy is a Speaker, Columnist, Author, and Consultant. Contact her at LMEarl@EarlMarketing.com or find and like her page on Face Book, and join her FB support group, Single Again: From Devastation to Dating.