There are three young married couples join our study. After reviewing their journals, videos, and initial interviews, we picked one couple (we’ll call them Sam and Jen) for further analysis: a series of 4 one-hour interviews, every other evening for a week. This dimensional of interviews and all the primary information we received provided the following set of observations.
1. Balancing Act
By far the challenge that Sam and Jen facing was their working schedule. Because of working as a teacher at an elementary school, Jen had to wake up very early while Sam a general contractor for his family business used to work in the evenings. This problem conflict created a time period each day where Jen was at home by herself waiting for Sam.
Both Sam and Jen always independently expressed their wish of having more time together and made a specific time schedule – when they wanted to do something and the other person was too engaged in some individual activity. It was clear that each of them was intentionally passing up chances to spend time together while feeling deprived of it by the other one.
2. Situational Challenges
The reason why we selected Sam and Jen for further analysis was the remarkable conflict in their relationship, mainly as Sam’s work schedule; however. During all follow-up interviews, we found out two key differences in their environment since we first participated in the study.
School’s Out. In April, when the journal and interview took place, the four interviews took place during the summer when Jen was not working. She became more understanding when Sam came home late from work, and with most of the other things that tended to frustrate her.
Home Improvement. During the interview, our couples were redecorating their home to put it on the market. They spent a lot of time on this stage as well as their money. And as a result, there were frequent arguments. Once this task was complete, they grew more comfortable with each other.
It is true that some conflicts between husband and wife are intrinsic. However, in Sam and Jen’s case, the conflict was very much linked with their current circumstances. Changes to the circumstances in their life produced remarkable qualitative changes to their relationship.
3. Supporting Cast
Just like other couples in the study, Sam and Jen were supported by a great team. They were their friends and extended family. They had close friendships with other married couples, a small group of newly-married couples at their church, their own parents nearby, and Sam’s godfather, with whom they were very close. They repeatedly mentioned this network during our discussion of the different areas of their life together, from recreation to dealing with marital challenges.
We were particularly interested in mentoring relationships. It took us a lot of time to discuss this in the interviews. The mentor couple was Sam’s godfather go with long-term, major issues per philosophies of life, setting and reaching family goals, etc. However, when it came to every day, stage-of-life issues and problems, Sam indicated he used to consult a friend who had been married a year before him instead of consulting his godfather. This “peer mentor” relationship was very valuable to him in giving advice about married life as well as how to deal with smaller challenges and issues.
4. Always Be Prepared
One interesting thing we noticed about all of our married couples, especially Sam and Jen, was the amount of time and energy they spent talking about their future plan, their goals in live and milestones and generally making sure they were on the same page.
Sometimes this actually seemed to us to be unworthy, since they would develop such comprehensive achievements, expectations that the process actually seemed to add nonessential stress to their lives.
We asked them specifically whether they felt that they were generating no needed conflict by dealing with potential problems ahead of time when they didn’t even know if they would ever actually have that problem, but they felt that it was a small price to pay for weeding out potential problems in advance.
They also need spending more time talking over their joint philosophies on marriage, parenting, careers, money, and other life problems.
In short, it was clear throughout the study that making a long-term and well-organized plan was a big part of many married couples’ lives. Sam and Jen were excellent examples of how this priority played out in practice.