Part 2: It's OK to Ask Your Spouse to Change! Part 2

by: Gary Stokes

What Couples Talk About in the Emergent Marriage: Summary of Part One: Married men and women who rate their marriages as “above average” or “way above average,” spend a lot of time talking to each other about their favorite topics—family, work, plans for the future, their relationship, and other personal interests.

Surprisingly, people in these happy marriages keep their guards up with each other to some extent, cautious about trying to change their spouse.  They do not intentionally and consistently ask their partners to change in order for potential to be realized.

Even in happy marriages, few couples are consciously pursuing their spouse’s potential or even their own potential.  My interviews with these couples convince me that most married people are unnecessarily limiting their own and their partner’s growth and development.

What Is an Emergent Marriage?

An emergent marriage is a relationship that is committed to the growth and development of the partners. 

  • Becoming more conscious—becoming more loving, in other words—it's the framing purpose of marriage for couples that want to emerge.
  • People in emergent marriages may also want to raise children, enjoy companionship, share an economic life, and other goals of the ordinary marriage.But emerging is the top goal, and all of the other goals of the marriage have to serve that top goal.
  • Couples in an emergent marriage commit to staying awake. They probably do not promise to stay together “til death do us part.”  Instead, they make a higher promise to each other: I will stay awake to your potential, pursuing it even when you don’t see it yourself.  I will be your partner in your emergence. And I promise to emerge myself with your love, support, and challenges. No one can make a higher commitment to you.  No one in your life will be as interested in your growth and development as your spouse in an emergent marriage. 
  • In an emergent marriage, I want to change, and I want my spouse to change.

In an emergent marriage, love is shining your light into your spouse’s dark corners.  In those dark corners lie your spouse’s potential, just as your potential hides in your dark corners. Your attention to what is possible in your spouse is your love in action. This is the most generous gift of love anyone can give.

What to Talk About in the Emergent Marriage: Head for the Trouble.

So, how to tell what wants to emerge within ourselves?  How can we find where our greatest potential lies?  What needs changing?  What must we learn in order to emerge? What path must we take together? It’s really pretty easy to find the answer to what wants to emerge in each of you: go straight to the trouble, the people and situations in your life that challenge you the most, the parts of your life that you reject.

  • Who disturbs you?  Name the individuals or groups and describe what it is about them that you reject.
  • Who haven’t you forgiven?
  • What situations disturb you?  List them and identify what you are rejecting in these situations.
  • What are the triggers for your anger, irritation and impatience?
  • What can make you unhappy?  Is there anything that can throw you into a funk or even depression?
  • What are you afraid of? 
  • What do you avoid, even though there is no imminent danger?
  • What outside yourself would you like to eliminate from life? 
  • What about life seems imperfect to you?

You may find that each of you has a different issue to work on right now in order to emerge. Or you may have the same issue. Once couples in an emergent marriage have identified the cutting edge growth issue each partner wants to pursue right now, those issues become the heart of their marital dialogue.

Is This Kind of Talk Any Fun—or Is It a Big Drag?

The dialogue in an emergent dialogue is the most vibrant, exciting, challenging, and valuable conversation we can invite into our life. Here’s an example: most people have not conquered their fears.  A couple in an emergent marriage might focus their most intimate conversations on helping each other overcome fear. Fear is limiting their emergence.  Fear shrinks their lives in observable ways.

In the safety of a loving dialogue, marriage partners can identify their specific fears and develop strategies to overcome them. As they encourage each other and learn together, their fears will be exposed for what they are—ghosts.  They will emerge, their fears in retreat.  Then one wonderful day, fears will no longer make any decisions, and their lives will emerge to a level of clarity and love not possible for people in ordinary marriages.


Couples in emergent marriages will gain skill and knowledge as they practice a new  dialogue aimed at emergence. As breakthroughs in learning occur,  emerging couples know what to credit: their marital dialogue. With more and more confidence, skill, and love, emerging couples will come to treasure their intimate and authentic talk as the most valuable gift in their lives. All of us on this globe are taking our initiation in love, Florence Shinn reminded us. 

A marriage committed to emergence makes our initiation a vibrant and joyful journey.

Gary Stokes maps the universe of poise at http://thepoisedlife.com/ where you can get a free assessment of your poise when you sign in.  Gary is the author of Poise: A Warrior's Guide. He is a contributing expert at HopeAfterDivorce.org and FamilyShare.com. 

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