When planning a career, one of the best things a person can do is shadow someone currently working in that profession. Interviewing the workers can be beneficial, but watching them perform their actual work helps bring your understanding of what they do to a higher level.
When I was around fifteen years old, I was toying with the idea of going into law. My mom worked it out for me to volunteer a few hours a week in a law office in town, and I found out quickly that the law profession was not for me. A few weeks after I’d been there, I went to court to watch one of the attorneys in action. Expecting a climactic Matlock scene, I was dismayed when it took three hours just to pick the jury. Not only that, but I was intimidated by the court room, and I felt like someone had drugged me during the process as I left. Later, that volunteer job turned into a part time job, and I freaked out every time I had to enter a court room to give a note to the judge. It didn’t take long to realize that practicing law was not like an episode of Matlock or Perry Mason, and even if it had been, I did not have the talent or personality for it at all.
Without realizing it, I likewise began relationship shadowing at a young age. It seemed like I was just spending time with older couples that I liked, but I later realized that I had surrounded myself with couples that inspired me. As I’ve written before, my neighbors across the street did a lot to encourage me in the area of marriage. They could’ve talked to me about marriage for hours, but watching them taught me much more than just listening. She treated him with such respect and honor – and he loved and teased her in his special way. Their house was pleasant and I always wanted to be there. I’m sure there were times they wanted to send me home, but I am grateful for their hospitality as it helped mold me into who I am today. When I was an adult, ready to think about marriage, I had a lifetime of lessons stored up from them and it helped me use wisdom in my mate selection.
Not only did I shadow positive couples, but I had the pleasure (though I didn’t realize it at the time) of relationship shadowing some couples with negative relationships. Instead of love, I saw screaming and backbiting. Instead of respect, I witnessed two people trying to win arguments at all costs, regardless of the damage their words caused. There were couples who barely spoke to each other and couples that spoke too much. Watching these couples helped me realize into what I was not willing to marry. Questions for potential mates began forming in my mind – and as I talked to young men, I found out their opinions on relationships, marital roles, and other important information. Watching the good relationships gave me high standards for which to shoot and watching the dysfunctional relationships gave me insight into how to avoid the future of a bitter marriage.
Do you and your boyfriend/girlfriend have couples in your life that display behaviors you want to have in your marriage? Are there older people, maybe in your church, that have gone through multiple stages in their relationship and are still loving, respecting, and honoring each other? Do they display honesty, gentleness, and selflessness? If so, take them out to dinner and don’t stop there. Ask them if you can join them from time to time in their home to learn from them. (Many older couples would love to impart what they’ve learned to a younger couple seeking to learn.) Get to know them well enough that you see different angles of their relationship. If you find that you deeply respect their relationship, question them about how they have traversed life together successfully. They will likely tell you stories of failure and success, but you can learn priceless information from their experience.
Whose relationship do you want to emulate?