Let me start with a quote:
Do you agree?
You know, I have been interested in finding out about how a marriage can work.
(BTW: I can think of two reasons why. First, because I was raised in a quarellsome marriage, and second, because based on the book Now, Discover Your Strengths I have got three gifts in the area of relationships)
So when I started my adult life I had this question in my mind: how is it, that two people who go to the altar voluntarily to live together, in some cases can even become each other's worst enemies.
So I read different books from different authors.
I have read from the Mars and Venus series from John Gray, I have read about the love languages from Gary Chapman, read a few from Les and Leslie Parrott (my favourite from them is the one about marriage mentoring), listened to Jimmy Evans, read from Gary Smalley, John Gottman (my second favourite), Zig Ziglar and others.
One can learn from all of them.
However the best of all the experts when it comes to marriage is Willard F. Harley jr. - at least, as I see it. I can see the width and the depth of his system. He does not just provide isolated suggestions. He does not just deals with some areas. He has got an approach that really covers all the possible issues.
Not only have they lived in a happy marriage with his wife for more than fifty years but all the people who have followed through his advice, system and guidance have been successful in falling back in love and staying in love. Being in love on the other hand is what makes us happy, do you agree?
And one of his cornerstone teachings is about the importance of reaching enthusiastic agreements (and how to do that).
I would call it reaching consensus.
The reason this is so important is, that by making all of your decisions together with your spouse, you can avoid resentments, fights, disrespect, judgments, anger, dishonesty, independent behaviour and independent lifestyle.
When you make sure that whatever either of you do is based on a mutually enthusiastic agreement, then you simply leave no room for those negative things that so often destroy the friendship and romantic love in marriages.
Mr. Harley calls this the Policy of Joint Agreement: never do anything without an enthusiastic agreement between you and your spouse.
This requires quite a commitment, but it is only difficult until we get into the habit of doing that.
Anyway, why am I writing about this?
There are three reasons:
1. For a leader is really important to be good at relationships. And if what you do does not work at home, it is not a good idea to export it. If you are not considerate and thoughtful at home, you won't be considerate and thoughtful with others either.
So both for your quality of life and your leadership advancement is a fundamental thing to make sure you are successful at home.
2. I believe that the willingness and skill of finding mutually satisfying options are really central for a married couple.
3. Based on my experience a community building experience can really help you with this important skill.
Reaching agreements on the other hand requires a number of subskills like:
-staying calm when frustrated
-letting go of preconceptions and assumptions
-allowing our minds to come up with ideas.
-ability to face and tolerate the (yet) unkown
A so-called community building event is about reaching consensus on a group level (with 20-50 people), consensus being one of the characteristics of a true community.
Such an experience will definitely help you with all the subskills necessary for finding common ground and paths within your most important relationship.
The one thing I don't agree with Mr. Willard F. Harley jr.
The only thing I don't agree with is what he calls the attempt of reaching joint agreement. He calls it the 'democracy strategy'. (He also gets into describing all the other not advisable strategies like dictatorship, dueling dictatorship and anarchy)
Based on how I see it, democracy is when both sides present their ideas, and there is a call for vote. This is what happens on the big stage of politics. This is the way to see where the majority is and allowing them to rule.
In a marriage however democracy does not work, because there is the possibility that each of you vote for your own idea. Then it is undecided, right? (My parents did once the mistake inviting us, kids, to vote, too. The problem with this is, that your spouse can resent it if you use the kids to have your own way – resentments on the other hand destroy your love for each other.).
So consensus is a better word, I would say. But otherwise the way it is explained in his books is great.
Here is a consensus definition from the book A World Waiting to be Born of M. Scott Peck, I hope can shed a light on the nature of consensus for you:
'Consensus is a group decision (which some members may not feel is the best decision, but which they can all live with, support and commit themselves not to undermine),
arrived at without voting, through a process whereby the issues are fully aired,
all members feel they have been adequately heard,
in which everyone has equal power and responsibility,
and different degrees of influence by virtue of individual stubbornness or charisma are avoided so that all are satisfied with the process.
The process requires the members to be emotionally present and engaged,
frank in a loving, mutually respectful manner, sensitive to each other;
to be selfless, dispassionate, and capable of emptying themselves,
and possessing a paradoxical awareness of the preciousness of both people and time (including knowing when the solution is satisfactory, and that it is time to stop and not reopen the discussion until such time as the group determines a need for revision).' -written by the Valley Diagnostic and Surgical Clinic of Harlingen, Texas and
The Foundation for Community Encouragement
Recommended books: He Wins, She Wins,
His Needs, Her Needs
and Love Busters – Willard F. Harley jr.
The Different Drum – M. Scott Peck
Recommended workshop: Community Building Experience/Skills Workshop