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National Editorials & Columns

Broadening our relationships, sharing weaknesses strengthens us

The last two months have been hard for me as for many of you. Those of you who know me and hopefully those who read this column know that I am passionate about literacy. In fact it is the third passion of my life. 

My first is my faith in God; my second is my love of family; then there is literacy in all its ramifications. I can’t imagine life without these three passions. 

For the last 10 weeks I have been so ill that at times I wondered how I could keep active. Many good doctors have tried to help, but basically all they have been able to do is rule out what it isn’t.

Then we lost a dear friend who didn’t win her fight and soon we’ll lose a nephew who can’t beat his cancer. On the good side there have been six birthdays in the same time period, one of which was mine. I was born on Christmas Eve and I could relate many a tale of people forgetting my birthday.

You may ask what this has to do with literacy; this is life. True, but literacy adds to my life. Since I have been ill there has been more time to read both for learning and for fun. 

Literacy allows me to send cards of encouragement and congratulations. Literacy helps me make sense of the hard things in the privacy of my own home. 

Relationships are most important.  We tend to ignore the link between literacy and the marriage relationship. Healthy self-esteem derives from the home atmosphere and it develops well in a good family life, though not totally defined by the marriage relationship. 

Few of us realize that our textbook for relationships comes from our home atmosphere. We assume that the everyday adult relationships we see are the way it is done.

When my husband and I married neither of us had especially good role models to follow, so we sat down to determine how our relationship would progress and how we would evaluate it, so we could do something when things weren’t going well. 

We relied on the guidance of our faith and listed what we wanted in our relationship as well as what we didn’t want. Then we promised to evaluate how we were doing each year the week of our anniversary.

Roland D. Martinson, an authority on Primary Life Relationships, discusses the purpose of marriage as: companionship (to delight in each other); to care and be cared for; to love and be loved; to understand and be understood. When we enjoy the presence of another being and share goals, we create a warm, loving atmosphere.  We also create a history of kept promises. 

In our case we kept our promise to evaluate and some years we got A-plus and some years we got D-minus, but we hung in there because our love was based on our faith and our friendship.

It should be no surprise that commitment — steadfast love — is what makes a marriage work. Being there for each other is what enables marriage to become a link between generations.

Marriage creates the emotional climate for children and is a partnership in the process of people making. We eventually had four children, three by birth and one by adoption. 

Parenting isn’t ingrained; it is work both mental and spiritual. Every parent must answer the question “Am I doing my best to parent this child?”  With our four children answers were varied and changed daily. 

Sometimes we were a good parent to three but not the fourth, then maybe two and not the other two, etc.  We expected to do the right thing and at times found out we weren’t. I’d like to say it gets easier once they are grown; it just gets different.

You may not accept that a strong marriage adds to literacy. Commitment to a marriage relationship is like a savings account. There has to be deposits as well as withdrawals. Love that lasts is a commitment. 

Commitment also means quality communication. Human beings need to express their spirits. Everyone yearns for at least one other person to share daily treasures and heartaches.

Spending time broadening our relationships and not narrowing them and sharing our weaknesses keeps silent pain from destroying us from the inside out.  Every person we share a history with, even when that history doesn’t always go well adds to our quality of life.

Books offer choices. I continue to encourage you to read biographies and learn more about either your heritage or the heritage of fellow Americans.

Until next week — Christine Pauley

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