I (Nathaniel) have learned to have a similar view of relationship training as Christina. The lens, through which I view it, though sometimes similar, is more often different than my lovely wife. Neither being better than the other by any means, simply put: I think and feel differently than Christina does and I am sure it goes the other way as well.
Just over a decade ago I took up chess. Very late in life to become any kind of a master of the game, but something I’d always respected and wanted to do. As I took up chess I recalled how to move the pieces, but I had no strategy. I knew the board and pieces, but had no vision of the depths to which the game could be played.
When I began I found that no one around me knew anything more than I did. I bought a book. Reading about it started out nice, but the context seemed out of place or foreign to me because I had no place to use it. I located and joined a chess site. There were men and women all over the world on this site. The site offered quick move and slow move games in this email chess club. Meaning I could sign on once a day or every other day, make one move and patiently wait a day or two for my opponent to do the same. Initially my instant gratification mind found this to be stupid. So I took on more games than I could possibly learn from simply because I could. I had upwards of 100 active games going at the same time just so I always had something to do when I signed in; however, I wasn’t learning much from them.
I had a few guys on there who were kind enough to encourage me to take on fewer games at a time and they would take the time to play against me weekly and review the game afterward. I found this encouraging and eventually followed the advice to cut down my game count. This transition happened over a four year period of being on the site, so I am not necessarily a quick learner. So sue me, at least I am honest about it. After setting limits to the amount of games I would play I was actually able to focus more intently on learning from my mistakes. I would take the time, even without a coach, to go back and review games I’d lost to see where the first or second major mistakes were made, by me, so I could learn not to repeat them anymore. I spoke with men and women I’d lost to and picked their brains about changes of pace within the game, I reached out to people with more knowledge than me, mentors I suppose you could say. I read a few more books to learn more during some of my free time. Free time as a parent is a misnomer; I actually just made time to read. I was training to become a better chess player. I am proud to say on the site’s rankings I am no longer categorized as an “Absolute Beginner” “Strength=Beginner” “May have recently started learning the legal moves of chess. May, know the basic checkmate patterns. Or, may be playing too many games at the same time.”
Wow, if I was unhealthy that could have been insulting to me.
I am listed, after 10 years on the site, as a “Strong Intermediate” “Strength=Advanced” “Good opening and endgame knowledge, combined with specific opening variations in their favorite opening lines. Tactical skill and positional understanding good and sometimes very good”
Wow, that makes me feel pretty proud, not in an arrogant way, but in a self-review “Hey, I accomplished teaching an old dog (me) a new trick or two”.
Why did I talk so much about my chess training?
Because I have been learning to do similar things as a husband and parent and mentor. I make time to read books on marriage, parenting and mentorship. Please notice I did NOT say, “I wait for time to be open for me” I said, “I make time” I prioritize it as important even if it’s not daily, I read something weekly or monthly, sometimes I wear out and I take breaks. But, to be honest, I am constantly training to better myself for God, my wife and children. I prioritize time to read my Bible and pray daily. I am trying to be better tomorrow than I was today. Better next year than I was last year. I cannot do that if I settle for thinking I know enough. I can never know enough about what my wife needs or wants. Can I give it all to her? Probably not, but that won’t stop me from trying. Knowing perfection is unattainable is not stopping me from trying to succeed at this. I speak to people who are married or were married and learn from positives and negatives in their experience. I read half a book, a whole book, or 2 books every month or so in order to gain perspective on how my wife thinks and feels so I can anticipate and help her and love her the way she desires emotionally and spiritually. I learn more about myself in these books and training times as well. I also am learning from serving my wife so well.
I never learned in the past by projecting blame on Christina and expecting her to be perfect to meet my needs. I learned the most by trying myself to be perfect for her and meet her needs and serve her.
I know I’ll never be perfect, but I’ve come to feel this shouldn’t stop me from trying to better myself.
Training, as chess, baseball, basketball, running, parenting, husbanding (can that be a word?) is constant even if I don’t want it to be. I must continue to try to be better and there are a lot of ways to do that. I enjoy using more than one training style and I enjoy the satisfaction of the emotional connection we have more than any of the fleeting feelings I’d had before I began this journey and training.
I am not training in front of everyone or anyone. I am training when no one is watching, I am trying to be admirable when no one appears to be watching so that it will be clear who and what I am when someone does happen to be watching.
Are you making a spectacle of your training, are you ensuring everyone is able to see what you are doing, so they can marvel at your efforts and you can get all those personal kudos?
Or, are you training in private? For God, yourself, your spouse and your children?