& the Family
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.
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