Recently we were given some promotional materials for a coalition of public service groups called Marriage Works Ohio, headquartered in Dayton. The group provides programs that support marriages and families. A program that promotes Transferrable Skills caught our attention. The premise is that there are marriage skills that can be used in a job and job skills that can be used in a marriage. In their definition, we all have “learned” abilities and “natural” abilities. “Learned” abilities are our skills and “natural” abilities are our talents. We will make some comments on the (incomplete) list of skills listed in their materials.
Now that we think about it we can see the parallels in skills that we applied to both our marriage and our careers.
Rita In our generation many people had one job and one marriage. We were taught to be committed and some stayed in marriages and jobs that were not always life-giving. Today we see many changing jobs frequently and a commitment to one person for life does not have a high success rate. However, the idea of commitment is most important in both. In marriage, commitment covers nearly every aspect of a couple’s life together. Acting on the assumption that you are in your marriage forever affects how you approach things from money, to parenting, to communication, to a fulfilling sexual relationship to solving differences. It requires both persons to be equal partners in all that you do. We consider that one of the strengths of our marriage is in knowing that no matter what the issue we need to face, how difficult it might be or how different each of us approaches a situation, we will always wake up together in the same bed the next morning. I believe I made a forever commitment to Bob on our wedding day and have worked through the years to live that out. Sometimes it is easier than others to live the commitment but I have never questioned the it. While I am now retired from teaching, I taught at three different Catholic high schools. I quit the first to become a mother, the second school merged with an all boys school and while I could have remained on the faculty, a more inviting possibility presented itself in the third school It was a very positive experience for me because I committed myself to making everything I did there the best I could. It didn’t matter whether I was in the classroom, a department chair, serving on a committee or being part of campus ministry I worked at making it the best. While it was not a forever commitment I was committed when I was there just as I am in our marriage.
It is probably easy to see marriage as a commitment, but it often gets lost in the other things we do in our lives. For many of us the job can become the commitment that gets all our attention. In any job I have ever had, even volunteer work, I always wanted to do the best I could do and often gave it larger amounts of time and effort than others expected. For me there is satisfaction in a job well done. Now that I think about it I can see how that approach also worked in our marriage. When something didn’t seem to be going well between us I would sometimes hesitate, but almost always would broach the subject and get us started back to the closeness we wanted. I was and am aware of things I can do to make our lives together better and work at doing my share and “go the extra mile” to keep our marriage strong.
The passion to work as a member of a team
Rita I don’t think I ever thought about spending my life as a single person and while as an adolescent I seriously considered becoming a religious sister, I recognized that I much preferred sharing my life with another in a “team” arrangement and so chose to marry. While being single has some positive benefits, for me, the idea of working on a team with someone is most inviting and fulfilling. That is one of the big plusses of marriage. Everything we do or need to face can be shared with another. It is as simple as how we want to spend the day to a home remodeling project or vacationing. Beyond that there is always someone to talk to, to use as a sounding board and, most importantly, to share accomplishments and joys. The “team” approach worked quite well in parenting as well as the daily needs of running a household. Each of us had responsibilities but there was always someone to pick up the slack when need be. Being part of an intimate team means we also have little secrets that no one else knows, we have our own little jokes between us and wonderful moments in our sexual relationship. The amazing part of being on a team is the adage of there is no “I” in team. Everything is shared and we became the persons God intended us to be. My approach to being a department chair was somewhat the same. I never considered it my department. Even as personnel changed and grew, we were a team, working together to allow the students to have the best experience of religious formation that we could imagine. Every person was important to the team in terms of creating materials, sharing ideas and helping each other to become the best teacher each of us could be. From feedback from students and other faculty members, we were successful.
I am basically shy and a loner. As I was growing up and as a young adult I tended to work alone and depend on myself more than others. I was always confident of my intellectual capabilities, but unsure of myself in social situations. My approach was usually to push my ideas and try to solve everyone’s’ problems to prove to others that I had value to them. I thought that people liked me for that ability and not for myself. Rita was the one person in my life that I believed liked me for me and she worked to convince me that I was likeable to others, and not just to solve people’s problems. As I came to believe more that other’s liked me as a person, my ability to work with others grew dramatically. I learned to just sit and listen in a group and let others talk. I was able to stop pushing my ideas up front and made it my rule to only speak when I had something to add to the discussion. I could affirm others and credit them with their contributions. I found that I very much enjoyed working with a group and helping it to be productive. With my improved self-confidence, I also found that it was easier to work with Rita and listen to her ideas. I learned to work at giving her a chance to have input in our discussions and to let her know how much I appreciate her contributions.
Problem solving skills
Rita While Bobprides himself in having great problem solving skills and he does, together we have found that marriage is a series of “problems” that need to be solved. Think about all the things that are required to make marriage successful. Learning to communicate effectively is a problem that needs to be solved. So is having a meaningful and fulfilling sexual relationship, as is raising children and managing a household to name a few. Marriages are successful when these issues can be solved together with each person having input, is listened to and seen as important. While we would never say that we have been one hundred percent effective in doing so, the journey of our life together has been to accomplish facing the issues that come our way. We have celebrated successes as well as learned from our failures. They become the life, death and resurrection stories of our marriage. For the most part, Bob has helped me to develop the problem solving skills that I have and he has certainly used the talents he has in making our life together wonderful. We can look back and see that we managed money quite well and today have a life of relative comfort. We worked together to be parents and can look at our children with joy as they are now adults facing all the issues we did. We still have problems to face as we age and learn to live with that but are confident that what we learned along the way will sustain us on this part of the journey. No one can be successful at a job/career without problem solving abilities. For me dealing with students required the ability to solve problems whether it was a highly motivated one or not, whether the student had deeply rooted faith or not, or academic ability or not. Solving problems was one of the joys of teaching. The same was true as a department chair. Working with people with different personality styles, work ethics, or creativity was always a challenging problem. The same was true of working with administrators through the years. Each had his or her own style and figuring out ways to work with them was always a challenge and with some I was more successful than others. Recognizing the need to work to solve problems is necessary in every aspect of our life. Most important for me is recognizing that I don’t have all the answers and that I can learn from others in both a career and in our marriage has made all of it a joy rather than a chore. Both have helped me to become the person that I am.
As a physicist and mathematician, I had many opportunities to develop problem solving skills. I admired this ability in my professors and was pleased to see eventually that I had developed many of the same skills. This was useful in my work as a teacher, of course. I could help students to see how to approach problems in difficult subjects. It was a challenge each semester to improve on the last one, but my skills were valuable beyond that. When I am presented with a problem, solutions often present themselves to me very quickly. Early in my career, I was always eager to let others know that I had the solution, like the student who always raised her hand, saying, “I know! I know!” As I became more confident in my social skills, I found that I could use that talent more productively. It often helped to let a group work through a problem more slowly and develop for themselves possible solutions. Eventually I could start to give them hints, if needed. Sometimes that helped me to get a better handle on the situation, too. It also led to easier acceptance of the solution we eventually used. I found myself in demand to be on and chair committees and known for my ability to bring about consensus.
When I started to approach discussions with Rita in the same way, she became more confident about offering her input and proposing solutions. I often try to let her have some say before I suggest ideas. When I come on strong, she may lose confidence in herself. She has become better at pushing back. Her thought processes tend to take a different emphasis than mine and often I find her suggestions to be as good as or better than mine. Often combining both approaches leads to a better solution than either of us could produce alone. The best thing about this approach is that we both have our ideas heard and can usually come to a real consensus.
What skills do you have that are useful in both your marriage and in other parts of your life? Leave a comment below.
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