Compatibility and Family Karma
One idea of modern family begins with two people who establish a home with
the support of their extended families and community. The glue of family life is
mate bonding and reproduction. The inner drive to reproduce and innate
tendencies to mate work well in at least for some individuals, but may be
short-lived and often do not sustain a couple through a lifetime of hard work,
disappointments, hardships and illness. It is a mistake is to assume that the
initial push of falling in love will sustain a couple through all the changes,
challenges and adversities of family life.
The success of a family depends on the ability of two people to sustain a
caring and affectionate relationship, even in the face of big changes and
recurrent adversity. Some couples travel the bumpy path with admirable
equanimity. Most couples, in my experience, are unprepared for all the demands
of parenting and have repeated relationship crises, ending in separation about
half the time.
The transformation of a married couple from lovers, to spouses, to parents
involves major demands on the couple's ability to cooperate and adapt to
changing demands on their resources. Success requires new learning and a
continuous re-mapping of the participants knowledge and behavior.
You could argue that compatibility is determined by the willingness and
ability to learn and change, more than any pre-conditions or biographical
details of the couple. Similar people have an advantage. In the best case,
similar people can achieve higher levels of cooperation than dissimilar people
who fight over every decision that is made.
Conflict over the division of labor and the spending of money is dominant in
the early years of marriage and couples with similar backgrounds, expectations
and earning potential will agree more readily on what is desirable to buy and
what is affordable. Couples often fight over child-rearing methods and criticize
each other’s handling of children’s demands, disobedience and emotional
outbursts. Parents with different values and different expectations will
continue to argue over child-rearing methods.
The economic partnership of a modern couple is equivalent to starting a small
business that requires money, commitment, knowledge, skills and the discipline
of balancing the budget. There is a big gap between lovers and business partners
and many couples do not bridge the gap.
There is little or nothing in the relative freedom lovers enjoy that
facilitates a business-like partnership and years of committed work. The couple
relationship undergoes its most dramatic transformation after the first child is
born. The first baby is anticipated with romantic illusions, but becomes a
demanding interloper who takes most of the mother’s time, energy and devotion
and leaves the new dad with the more abstract task of redirecting his energy.
Dad has to focus on providing for the new dependent and adjusting to the
relative neglect of his own needs and desires. In the best case, both parents
bond to the baby and life-long devotion is established by innate processes.
Feeding children properly is not easy and couples often have different views
of what food is desirable to eat. Children demand fast foods, junk foods,
candies and desserts and will often refuse healthy food. The easy path for one
or both parents is to provide junk foods, television sets and video games. When
a child becomes ill or acts badly, it is a demanding task for both parents to
cooperate with a rational diet revision plan. Even when diet revision offers
great long-term rewards, parents often fail to sustain a healthier way of eating
and will argue about every detail of the diet. If parents agree to cooperate,
study and discuss, they can create a reasonable plan of change and begin
negotiations with their child or children. The benefits of proper diet revision
will endure for the lifetime of the child and will reduce many difficulties and
costs of raising the child.