Building Better Marriages

By Rob Furlong

The impressive marks of maturity

"Many people may be, chronologically, forty-five years old but remain an emotional infant, child or adolescent." What a perceptive observation the author, Peter Scazzero makes here! He was commenting on how many, many people physically grow up but never grow up emotionally. To illustrate his point he describes the various stages of emotional development that we need to pass through as being that of the infant (totally focussed on having our needs met by others), the child (where our happiness or otherwise essentially depends on whether we get our own way or not), the adolescent (where we are concerned only with ourselves and don't express much empathy for others) through to the final stage becoming emotional adults.

As I have already mentioned, Scazzero reminds us that many people get "stuck" in one of those first three stages.

Consider the positives of being an emotionally healthy adult as described by Scazzero and which I have paraphrased:

  • They are able to express their needs and wants with clarity and honesty.
  • They exercise mature control over their thoughts and feelings.
  • In times of stress they remain true to their values and beliefs without belligerence.
  • They respect the right of others to think differently to them.
  • They allow others to make mistakes.
  • They love people for who they are.
  • They know their own limits and are not afraid to be open about them.
  • They have empathy for others.
  • They can resolve conflict in a way that also respects the opinions of others.

I must confess that when I read a list like this I feel a stab of guilt in my heart because I recognise that for far too long in my adult life I lived like an emotional adolescent – but by God's grace and a commitment to the difficult task of life change I have steadily experienced the freedom of growing up into an emotionally healthy adult. (Admittedly there are still times when I cry like a baby but that is usually reserved for important things like when the Aussies lose a Test match!)

Growing up emotionally will transform our relationships with others, especially with those who are closest to us. When a husband grows up emotionally he becomes more considerate of his wife, seeking to fulfil her needs before his own; a wife becomes more concerned about building her husband up instead of tearing him down with her criticism and friends learn to listen, value and respect each other for the different perspectives that each one brings to the relationship.

A new year is a gift that presents each of us with the opportunity of fresh possibilities and the chance to make some changes in our lives, beginning with ourselves and then seeing the benefits of these changes spill over into our relationships.

Of course, simply flipping the page of a calendar to 2014 will not miraculously transform our lives – but a new year does provide us with a starting point that can become the catalyst for significant change in our lives. So embrace the opportunity that 2014 represents for you – get your hands on a good book that will encourage you to grow personally, seek out the advice of someone who can support and encourage you in the process of change and don't forget to draw strength from God! And you had better get a move on – by the time you read this, 2014 will already be a month old!

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