Sweet/Care/Align, Part 1

The older I get, the more I realize that failing marriages — whether they culminate in divorce paperwork or just demoralized partners — outnumber successful ones. And the more I realize this, the more determined I am to help increase the odds of Greyson’s future relationship success.

I grew up on a steady diet of earnest family sitcoms, back when those were still a thing. Every week I watched the domestic interactions of the Huxtables and the Keatons and the Petries and the Cleavers, along with a bizarre number of Taylors. Each of these warm-hearted, well-matched spouses (and a few widowers) helped formulate my adolescent sense of what marriage and parenting should look like. My template for a successful marital bond, based only on TV characters, could both then and now be summed up as:

Steven & Elyse Keaton (added bonus: I like their political vibe)
+  Coach Eric & Tami Taylor (they fight more lovingly than anyone)
+  Clair Huxtable (so warm and wise… Cliff, I have nothing to say to you)
+  a dash of Jill Taylor (she was always more my speed than Tim)
x  a heap of Andy Taylor (why are there so many great Taylors?)
=  the perfect spouse and/or the perfect parent

But beyond what I saw amusingly projected (and artificially perfected) on the TV screen, I was familiar from a young age, as was Danielle, with what a solid real-life marriage looks like. Our respective parents have now been rock-steady for over 40 years, and 3 sets of our grandparents remained together — and in love — for 58, 63, and 67 years, respectively. That’s almost two centuries combined! Danielle and I are deeply fortunate to have each had a front-row seat to watch durable marriages that were buoyed by the alignment of shared values, parental and otherwise.

I’ve been thinking a lot about these shared values lately. A handful of marriages that I’ve witnessed at close range over the past decade have painfully languished and ultimately perished. In one or two cases, this brokenness was the result of a large act of betrayal. In a few other cases, it stemmed from numerous small acts of selfishness. But I would contend that in most of the decayed marriages I’ve seen, what doomed the relationship was a lack of carefully aligned values.

And I’m not talking primarily about core principles, like integrity and curiosity and empathy, although overlapping on those is absolutely vital at a baseline level. Instead, I’ve found that it’s often the everyday, pragmatic, rubber-meets-road values that, when they diverge in a marriage, slowly but surely create an unmanageable sticking point.

The two most common examples of these values are (1) how finances should be saved and spent, and (2) how children should be raised and taught. I’ve seen it time and again. Without significant common ground between partners in the areas of money management and parenting, it’s only a matter of time before the nest egg hits the pavement, or the dirty diaper hits the fan.

So let’s detour back to my favorite subject: Greyson. While he remains at this moment a compact 10-month-old ball of goofiness and giggles, gloriously unaware of the coordinates of his future adult life, I remain ever a vigilant planner-aheader. And I figure it’s never too early to start laying the groundwork (or at this early stage let’s call it the groundwork for the groundwork) for his eventual success in romantic relationships.

Even now, everything that Greyson sees pass between his mama and me, and between his aunts and uncles, and between his grandmas and grandpas, and between other sets of romantic partners he observes as he grows older, will help build his internal narrative about relationships and marriage.

And what I am deeply proud to show him in the marriage he watches unfold within the four walls of our home is this — an ever-imperfect but ever-enduring bond powered by dynamic shared values and a mutual game plan.

After all, romantic love may be (and quite likely is) the best thing in the world. But an edifice built around romantic love without a strong framework of aligning values is bound to eventually collapse.

It may be a few decades down the road, but I want Greyson’s eventual edifice to be solid, carefully planned, warmed by love, and built to withstand a hurricane.

(After all, we may need to move in someday!)


Thus concludes Part 1. As with “The Grand Tour,” I have simply run out of weekend. The forthcoming Part 2 will go into more detail on how we’ve been able so far to execute our shared game plan despite a few missteps; where I’ve seen others go wrong, sometimes to a devastating degree; and what advice I will offer Greyson 20 years from now (or closer to 30 if he’s like us!) when he’s drawing up his own marital game plan.

Thanks as always for reading, and reflecting, and engaging. I’d love to know your thoughts below, and I will reply to every comment… if only because I can’t help myself.

4 thoughts on “Sweet/Care/Align, Part 1

  1. I had to chuckle at the title. Very clever and subtle. 🙂 Few things grieve my spirit as much as a broken marriage so I am intrigued to see where you’re headed in part 2.


    • Thanks, Val! I do quite enjoy playing with double meanings and unexpected punctuation. And it means a lot that you’re anticipating my follow-up… I guess I just keep leaving you hanging. 😛


  2. Jeremy, my marriage had ups and some down times but was glues together with a very strong love for each other and center ed around our precious Lord Jesus Christ. That is what is one of the sadly missing factors in this day we live in. Without Him there would be no LIFE period.


    • Thanks for reading and responding, Aunt Fran. That means a great deal. Your marriage to Uncle Jerel was certainly one of the beautiful examples I could admire and learn from as I grew up. And your kids and grandkids are a shining testament to your love-fueled legacy.


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