L inda and I are just married. We’re off on our first shopping trip together, I think it’s Walmart. We’re just through the door, and I’m distracted with an article of interest to consider, probably a valuable food item.
The next thing I know, Linda has vanished. It’s as if she was beamed up to the alien mothership, nowhere to be seen.
I feel panic as I’m transported back to the little boy who is lost at the circus with his parents nowhere to be found. We haven’t picked out a rendezvous place to meet in case this kind of distressing event happens.
To make matters worse, Linda is just short enough to hide behind all the racks in the store. I feel stressed out, and then angry that,
“she would abandon me like that! How inconsiderate.”
I wasn’t crying yet but felt those abandoned, scary, stressful emotions. “ Where is she?”
I start calling her name, not loudly, but enough for her to hear me if she’s at least on this side of the store. (I know it’s immature and ridiculous, but we haven’t worked out shopping mutuality yet.)
She eventually hears me, returning with this puzzled look on her face that says;
“What’s your problem anyway? I’m trying to shop!”
These were our first “shopping dynamics.” Our first test at “becoming mutual.”
It says “and the two shall become one..” This “becoming” part is the stuff of marriage, the adventure, the journey.
Like it is in the new marriage, you start experiencing dynamics you’ve not been through before. You have to learn something you’ve never had before; Mutuality.
This is how mutuality grows; You unpack the dynamic you’re experiencing together and navigate it with integrity. You use your words and honor and validate each other’s feelings.
This means you take responsibility for your own emotions and feelings, and invite your spouse into them to work them out together with you. They may not want to come in at first. There is often defensiveness involved. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Show and tell
I choose a word picture to illustrate to her how I feel, and how her actions precipitated my feelings.
We are two jets, flying in formation together, wings almost touching. Suddenly without warning, one of the jets peels off and starts flying to another destination without communicating its intentions.
The feeling of “doing this together,” evaporates as the jet flies out of sight with a resounding sonic boom punctuating my abandoned feelings.
“I thought we were going to shop together.” Instead, the joy of us has reduced to me alone.
“Shopping together,” wasn’t in her grid of thinking. You just shop. Slowing down to “drag me along,” never entered her mind. I explained that it needed to be, or at a minimum, I needed more information on what to expect.
Don’t think in terms of blame, Think of this as the way of love
It’s not a matter of “whose fault it is,” rather a matter of “who has the need that’s not being met, and how can we meet it?” Most conflicts start and will end here.
Answer this and you have the resolution to the conflict as you explore. This is the call. Unanswered, the door to mutuality remains closed. Find the reasons, the door opens.
She had no way of knowing what I needed. The dynamic itself exposed my need. I was then able to show her what it would look like for her to meet that need. Her response to love is to change her way of doing things to our way of doing things.
Mutuality is gained through a need meeting.
- One of you has a need
- The need creates conflict and elicits an invitation to explore it
- You explore the need and discover it, in this case, my need for reassurance.
- You honor the need by validating it. “Yes I see that and I care about the feelings involved.”
- You resolve the need by loving enough to strategize and meet that need by changing how you “roll.” Linda says,
“It’s not just me anymore but us, I’m not abandoning you. I’m finding out about you, and don’t want you to feel that way, I love you!”
My heart experiences healing as “I experience love and acceptance in an abandoned place.” My fear recedes as my heart feels this love and security grows.
Mutual Operating Systems
We developed a “new operating system,” that incorporated mutuality.
- If we split up, we communicated what section we would be in, so we could find each other. (I needed this.)
- We would occasionally “check-in” with each other to ensure mutuality was intact. This meant we were both enjoying the experience, feeling connected, while free to roam. The more security I felt, the more freedom we gained together.
“I’ll be in the jewelry department.” Or “You can find me in menswear.” Or “Let’s meet back here in fifteen minutes.” Or, whatever works for you.
I was insecure and needed reassurance. Linda loves me so she co-operated with me to meet that need. It’s not that I wanted to control her, keep tabs on her, or keep her from having her freedom. I just wanted mutuality, a sense of “togetherness.”
We can achieve togetherness through communication; Exploring, discovering, honoring, and resolving. This is the mutuality success cycle.
Today when we go into a store, 33 years later, the dance is total freedom. We rarely say anything because we are so used to each other, we can anticipate where each will be. We are tethered, not in a bondage way, but mutually, wanting the same thing; The joy of oneness.
She might even pick out a cool shirt for me, I may discover some unique earrings for her. It may be “shop till I drop,” or it may be I, “say yes to the dress, or go ahead and get them both.”
We know our corporate goals, and each other well enough to know our energy is working together. Our energy is shared to achieve those goals, without competition, fear, or waste from pulling in two different directions. This applies across the board to all our life goals.
I’m under contract for my book “Happily Ever After,” with Illumify Media, and am in the manuscript- editing process. Thank you for continued prayers and support as we complete the book. Praying for all your marriages and all who read this needing hope, and am excited about the future as God unfolds it for us. Mutually yours, Dan XO