Secret to Lasting Unity is Individuality

Ralph and Phyllis Tarant married in 1933. They say they are still as devoted to one another as ever. The secret? Ralph says with a chuckle, “She goes her way. I go mine.”

See their story HERE.

My parents married in 1948. They’ve been a couple since they sat next to one another in high school, 68 years ago; and they’ve been an inter-faith couple for the past 30 years. Last night, John and I visited them, bringing a mix CD of their favorite love songs for Valentine’s Day. While Mom danced and sang with my husband in the dining room, I sat in the living room with Dad and reminisced.

My childhood memories include Mom going her way and Dad going his, each anchored home by love for one another. Sometimes Mom disapproved of Dad’s actions–or vice versa. They voiced their opinions, then gave the other freedom to do as they chose. Disagreements were taken in stride, and the life they forged together was taken with joy and love and laughter. I’m the youngest of their five children, and a witness that their devotion to one another is not for show. It’s for real.

When John and I married in 1984, I tried to become the devoted Christian wife that my church said I should be, but my husband never asked me to be. I put aside my talents and the things that I loved in order to support my husband. I kept my mouth shut if I disapproved of his decisions. In turn, he put aside his passions to become the devoted Christian husband that our church said he should be, but I never asked for. He kept quiet about his dissatisfaction, and tried to carry the responsibilities of decision-making alone.

We lost our individuality, which was the very thing that drew us to one another in the first place. Our resentment for one another grew. After years of misery, we came to the conclusion that our marriage wasn’t working. Though it looked good on the outside, it was just for show. We decided to go our separate ways–together.

By Focusing on Individuality, We Found Unity

Our church taught us that the formula for joy is: Jesus first. Others second. Yourself last.

That’s catchy, but it nearly destroyed our family. The formula that rescued us is the same one that seems to work for my parents and for Ralph and Phyllis Tarant: Individuality first. Then family. Then community. God created us individually. He gave us each unique perspectives, talents and abilities. When we put his purpose for us as individuals first, we aren’t being selfish. We’re putting God first.

The Bible is full of paradox. Lose your life, and you will save it. Give and you shall receive. By focusing on individuality, we found unity.

That doesn’t mean we don’t make sacrifices for one another. Individuality First means that at times we choose to sacrifice in order to encourage individuality in our spouse. And that sacrifice becomes part of who we are as individuals. It all circles around and connects.

Today, my husband and I love one another with joy and love and laughter. I go my way, and he goes his. When things start to get unbalanced, we go back to Individuality First and find unity again. God willing, we will still be as devoted to one another in our final days as we are now. Now it’s for real.


7 thoughts on “Secret to Lasting Unity is Individuality

  1. Kathy, its wonderful to read such wisdom in the words of an old friend. I knew you and John before you got married and I know exactly what you were taught. I am overjoyed to know that your marriage and life together has turned out to be so fulfilling.

  2. Mike, thank you so much. I’m always glad to hear from you! Some of John’s and my most life-anchoring understandings grew out of ideas that you exposed us to back in the day. We talk about you all the time, and our children feel like they know you.

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