Last week my wife Cyndi and I were guinea pigs for a “Marriage Game”- a card game that is designed to help couples communicate with each other about what they want out of their relationship and which values they share with each other.
Cyndi and I married young (that means that we have been together a long time now), and during the last years we have paid a lot of attention to our relationship and how we can grow in learning about each other and how to care for each other.
So it was fun to participate in this game as a try-out for a television program that might be based on this game. And we did learn some things.
At the end of the game the person who was leading it asked us to respond to what we had just done. We gave an answer, but it apparently was not satisfactory to her. So she asked Cyndi, “Are you content in your relationship?”
Cyndi’s first - almost instinctive – response was “It is not about whether I am content or not. That is not the most important goal.”
It was obvious that this was not the answer she expected.
But it was an answer that was worth my weight in gold.
The generation of my parents married young and without much knowledge about themselves or the mechanics of a relationship. People married, had children, worked, and stayed together without much concern for the personal needs of the individual within the relationship.
My generation – the baby boomers – also married young, but usually had more experience in relationships and sexuality. Because of the enormous changes going on in the society we were more aware of who we were as persons and what we needed. We had high ideals. But the kids and the career came, and it wasn’t long before we became unsatisfied with our lives.
The difference between this generation and that of our parents is that we went to the psychologist with our problems and to find an answer to the questions “Who am I really?” and “What do I really want?” The talk shows on radio and TV – with “Oprah” and “Dr. Phil” as frontrunners – are a perfect example of that.
The generation of our children grew up in this environment and that has made quite a difference. They marry at an older age, and have usually had more than one serious relationship before they find their partner. They are older when they become parents, and in general their relationships are more stable. They seem not to have the questions and struggles about who they are as intensely as we do (or did).
What I want to say is this: my generation is very focused on who I am, what I feel, how I can be fulfilled in this life.
And that is a good thing. It is good that we have learned – or are learning – to pay attention to ourselves, who we are and what we need.
But it could be that here the good really is the worst enemy of the best.
Because it is not ultimately about whether I am content or not.
We have been made to serve the other. Our life is complete only to the extent that we have learned to give ourselves to the other person.
Cyndi and I realized again that the greatest pleasure we experience in our life together is to be able to be of value and service to someone else. Knowing who I am and what I need is only healthy when it rests on the foundation of service to each other and to those around us. The Bible calls that “agape”.
I think sometimes that our generation could use more “therapy” in order to learn how to be of service to others.
We have been enormously successful in teaching our children who they are and giving them the affirmation that we often didn’t get.
Sometimes I wonder how we have done with passing on the real fundamental values in life.