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Christian Life
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The Marriage Mindset

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Do you believe that if you have natural talents and passions in a specific area then your development of that gifting and pursuits of that interest should be a piece of cake?  Or, do you believe that even though you have God-given abilities and deep-seated curiosities, you must exert time and effort because it won’t all be easy street?

For example, Michael Phelps and LeBron James had within their DNA, traits the rest of us envy. Are these superstars world renowned because what they did was a piece of cake for them, as a result of their God-given abilities? Or, though genetically they might be considered freaks of nature, did they work hard at developing their talents?

Put another way, could there be dozens of Michael Phelpses and LeBron Jameses out there (freaks of nature), with a similar genetic makeup, but they crawled out of the pool never to return or left the gym for good because it demanded too much work?

Many people have the mindset that if you are a science geek then doing science will be easy. Others believe that if you have natural talent as an artist, then painting will be a breeze. For the naturally gifted, according to many, there will be no obstacles or exhaustion when they set out to develop what God has already given them a propensity for.

Of course, when we state it in these terms most of us would agree that, yes, it takes a lot of time and effort to excel in anything. But what is fascinating is that new research reveals some people still hold to an easy-street mentality. These are folks referred to as having a fixed mindset, and they differ from those with a growth mindset.

What does that mean? Those with a growth mindset (“I must work at being better”) believe that obstacles come regardless of one’s natural abilities and interests and that one must take time and effort to chase after whatever it is one wants to do or be.

The fixed mindset (“I really don't have to work hard at being better”) says that given one has God-given talent then it really shouldn’t be too tough to excel in that area.

Here's what research has confirmed. Research reveals that those with a fixed mindset end up quitting the pursuit when obstacles arise. In their thinking they are fixed in the sense that they dogmatically believe that it ought not to take a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. Their fixed mindset does not accept the reality of difficulties and setbacks, and when they come they conclude this isn't what they should do or be. They move in another direction. Unlike Michael Phelps who at 6:00 a.m. dives into the pool to swim for two hours until he wants to puke, they quit the swim team. Unlike LeBron James running wind sprints until he collapses, they exit the gym and go to Dairy Queen.

How does this apply to marriage? "The researchers liken this approach to learning to perspectives on romance. Those who search for their one true love have unrealistic expectations and can end up on an endless and empty quest. Meanwhile, those who believe that love is a project and a process will exercise more patience when their partner falls short of expectations and can ultimately experience moments of true love." (source)

Those who have the fixed mindset (“I really don't have to work hard at being better”) when it comes to relationships believe that there is a soulmate out there and that when you find that person the relationship should be relatively easy. Romance should be a piece of cake. Of course, when difficulties arise, soon enough this person shuts down on the relationship. They think, "This relationship should not be this tough. I made a wrong decision about getting in the relationship with this person. If they were really my soulmate, this relationship would always be happy, natural, satisfying, and easy." When things get hard and demanding, the fixed mindset says, “I didn't sign up for this."

For certain, there are some people we should stop dating, such as felons with addictions who have been married six times before. We need to run for the hills when we find ourselves across the dinner table from them. However, that's not the frame of reference here. We are talking about two people with basic goodwill and the ability to be mature during troubling moments but who have a fixed mindset going into a romantic relationship that no such troubles ought to arise. When disagreements, disappoints, misfortune, and misinterpretations do arise—again—this person declares, "I am out of here."

On the other hand, those with a growth mindset (“I must work at being better”) recognize that there are individuals out there with whom they have a special chemistry and common interests and convictions but even still a relationship with them will take work. It is not easy street. Instead, they accept that obstacles to emotional happiness stand in their way. However, they find ways of getting over or going around the obstacle. They never call it quits. They know successful relationships take time and effort.

These two mindsets explain why some relationships end relatively soon after they begin and why other relationships continue until one person dies.

Though God calls a husband to enjoy life with his wife (Ecclesiastes 9:9), God also reveals the inevitability of trouble (1 Corinthians 7:28).

An easy-street mindset is ill prepared for trouble. The easy-street mentality among couples leads to a rejection of the idea that one must work hard during various seasons to love and respect each other. The no-work-and-all-play mindset believes love and respect is a piece of cake and if not, they conclude the relationship was a mistake.

So, what mindset do you possess? Do you tend to tell yourself more often, “I must work at being better,” or do you have more of an “I really don’t have to work hard at being better” mindset?

-Dr. E

Emerson Eggerichs, Ph.D.
Author, Speaker, Pastor

Questions to Consider

  1. What natural talents or passions do you have (or did you have when you were younger)? Did they still require a great deal of work in order to strengthen them, or was that area for you always an “easy street”?
  2. Why will two people with growth mindsets find more happiness and success in their relationship than two people where either one or both have a fixed mindset?
  3. Look back on a past broken marriage, either in your life or from someone you know. Can you recognize the fixed mindset in one or both partners? How did that help lead to them calling it quits?
  4. Why do you think God, who created marriage, does not allow the commitment to be “easy street” for those who vow to love each other til death do them part? How is He glorified when two people commit to persevering through the ups and downs of their marriage?