I'm currently reading "Sacred Parenting" by Gary Thomas. It's been a great read thus far, I'm only two chapters in. It's quite similar to his book "Sacred Marriage." The latter essentially says that the reason we get married, as believers, is for our holiness more than our happiness. This is totally true, and the reason that Dr Phil's philosophy will ultimately fail us.
Dr Phil, and our culture, would subtlely have us believe that if we could just figure out a healthy and mutually beneficial compromise in our marriage and family, then we will be ultimately happy. Just figure out a system in which you're both giving 50% and both taking 50% and you will gain marital bliss. I find this system quite wanting. For starters, people's felt needs differ greatly. Melissa, for example, has virtually no need to be affirmed. I could tell her she is great all day long and it does virtually nothing for her. But if she tells me how awesome I am, I will climb mountains and slay dragons for her.
So, let's assume that Dr. Phil's philosophy grants that each marriage partner has different needs and 50/50 won't always work (and it may, I really don't know all that much about what he thinks). Then, if I'm a single man, my goal is to find the most unneedy person I can; someone who has no emotional or physical needs at all is ideal because then I get what I want all the more frequently! If I only have to serve 20% of the time, then I get served 80% and that sounds better than the alternative!
Here's my main problem though, with our current culture's view of marriage. The entire premise is that marriage is about our happiness. Let's figure out a way to maximize our happiness so that we will be fulfilled. We seem addicted to happiness but I would suggest we seek it in the wrong places. What if, instead of using marriage as a drug to make us happy, we saw it as an avenue to grow our character and make us holy? What is parenting and marriage were more about refining us as people in the image of God than they are about us feeling happy?
Don't get me wrong, I think as we pursue holiness and character growth in marriage and parenting we will be happier, but the end goal will be our holiness, not our happiness. What if rather than helping Noah avoid uncomfortable and scary situations, I encouraged him to perservere through them, growing him as an individual? What if, rather than using Melissa to make me happier, I deny my happiness, and seek only hers?
I guess the main point is that believers and unbelievers have different ultimate goals. For unbelievers, and our current culture falls here, this life is all we have; thus, we should just try to maximize our enjoyments in the small time frame we have. They have no hope, no ultimate goal for which to strive. After death we return to dust, so let's eat drink and be merry! The believer, on the contrary, has a purpose in becoming more like Christ in this life and the next. Our lives are not about how to maximize our enjoyment in our stay here, but rather how to become more like God for eternity. Our scope is longer, do you see? Marriage and parenting are not for this temporary earth, but are relationships to help equip us for the joys to come.
See, Christianity is about joy and happiness also. But for the Christian his joy is found in Jesus. His joy is in growing in Jesus' character, in experiencing Jesus' pain, in loving the way Jesus loved. The Christian's joy is found in enjoying God. The alternative is to enjoy the creation of God rather than the creator. The unbeliever enjoys the pot while neglecting the potter.
I fear that was perhaps all over the place but there you are!