Marriage as People Growing Machine: Toward a Resilient Marital Spirituality

In this video, Dr. Tom Wagner, lays out the spiritual foundation to his marital enrichment program, “Whole Hearted Marriages.” Dr. Tom creatively blends profound spiritual insights from Judeo-Christian traditions with solid marriage and family research to give viewers practical tools to enhance their marriages.

3 Replies to “Marriage as People Growing Machine: Toward a Resilient Marital Spirituality”

  1. Tom…what a delightful and meaningful presentation on your podcast. I admire your knowledge of content and your skillful presentation. I want to be like you when I grow up. Several things came to mind as I listened.
    1. That God is within each of us is true. God is within everything that is. This is called “panentheism” meaning that God is within all that God created, (Not “pantheism” which holds that everything, i.e. the universe, is God.) The task and challenge is to gradually, with work and grace, come to know the God within ourselves and within our spouses. The practice of contemplation or “Centering Prayer” can be very helpful here.
    2. My wife of 53 years, Mary, says something similar to your friend”s statement that marriage is a “growing machine.” Mary (who is also a social worker) tells young couples we are preparing for marriage this: “Marriage is a change-machine.” It can change you for the better or for the worse…but it will change you. Marriage can change (or grow) each individual into something greater than he/she can be if left alone. Therapist and author Janet Woitiz says that there are six conditions for intimacy…I can be me, You can be you, We can be us. I can grow, You can grow, We can grow together. I believe that if a couple doesn’t grow together they will grow apart.
    3. Gottman, whom you quote in the podcast, has found through research that married couples end up quarreling about the same thing over and over again (about 69% of their quarrels constitute what Gottman labels “perpetual problems” that are never fully resolved. This rate essentially holds true for couples with good marriages and those with marriages that aren’t so good. The difference between the two is that those with good marriages developed an atmosphere of respect and admiration for each other that keeps the perpetual problems from causing lasting damage. Mary and I try to build up our “emotional marital bank account” by telling one another often (hopefully daily) of something we admire or respect about each other. That results in what Gottman calls “positive sentiment override.” Gottman also has found that it takes 5 positive interactions to neutralize 1 negative interaction. It behoove us to have a reservoir of good will when we make a “withdrawal” with an angry or unkind interchange.
    You ask “What opens you?” or “What breaths through you?” in marriage. Being intentional about seeing the good (the God) in each other helps accomplish that.

    Lastly…loved your story about your fight with your wife,Lisa, and the positive outcome. Sometimes Mary says of us and our fights, “I don’t like you right now, but I like our marriage, so let’s grow up and fix (whatever it is we think is broken).” That’s what Marriage Encounter labels “Love is a Decision.” Love is not just a feeling, but more important it’s a decision to act in the best interest of the other.

    1. Phil,

      Thanks for your kind words. I am not sure if SMC readers/viewers who live outside the Saint Louis community would have any knowledge of what a well known marital/individual therapist, speaker, and preacher that you are? In any case, I am honored that you would join in the conversation. I forgot about the healthy marital ecology of five positive interaction for every one negative…good to be reminded. Also, thanks for keeping it real by including the fact that even a seasoned, well-known marital specialist has rough waters to navigate in his own marriage and family life! I hope we can reconnect over this kind of a conversation in the future!

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