It is well regarded that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to “master” a desired skill. It is easy to see this play out on the sports field, learning a musical instrument, or in a professional setting. But what about in our marriage? Think of how long it took you to adjust to your spouses living habits when first living together! That alone is often a master lesson in patience.
What Can We Master?
But what are we trying to master? Being a good partner to our spouse is a collection of skills, not just one thing. Therefore, the answer to this question will be unique for every family as we come into relationships with different skill sets. It might be easy to think of something that we are already working on and want to continue to improve. Our next mastery item may be sparked by reading something and realizing there is a missing skill our relationship can benefit from.
Re-Tell the Story – That’s a Skill
Knowing that relationships are often repeating patterns of experience, the most powerful skill to learn may be the ability to retell the story. The willingness to release the story we bind ourselves to is a skill in itself. It’s so easy to say, “my husband always _______” but just saying something always happens connects us to that story. If we fill in the blank with “says I love you”, the story is worth telling. But if the blank is filled in by “never does anything to help around the house” perhaps it is time to rewrite the story. The exciting part is that we can do that together.
The variables of life change the nature of the spouse relationship over time. We may require new skills or relearn skills we once possessed. We may need skills to keep romance alive or improve the efficiency of communication when crunched for alone time. Whether it is welcoming children, changing careers, or experiencing the changing landscape of a life together, there is always an opportunity to sharpen marital skills.
Small Changes = Big Impact
This thought on mastery also offers an opportunity to think about the whole partnership of marriage in a different way. If we can think of one or two intentions to consistently practice, we can offer great change. Let’s say we commit to saying “I love you” daily, over time we will be speaking love daily. If we know our partner responds to positive affirmation but that doesn’t come naturally to us, we can aim to give our spouse a sincere compliment daily. Skill mastery is not massive change. It is small change, practiced regularly, that makes a big impact.
The mastery of marriage on all levels is far fetched, more like a super power than real life. However, knowing that there is a threshold to mastering a skill of any kind is a hopeful way to look at all that we can learn and practice to offer purposeful intention to our partner. There is no such thing as the perfect spouse. But skill mastery is possible and the authentic pursuit of those skills is a perfect place to start.