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Read Letter

Irreducible Fundamentals

My dear Jil,

It’s great to be back. And thank you, my holiday went very well. Always good to take time off. A change of environment can bring startling perspectives.

I was reflecting the other day about the motions we go through at this time of year. We make resolutions but hardly keep them. It’s the same thing year after year – the decision to lose weight, to stop smoking, to be punctual, to read the Bible daily, not to get inebriated, to break off a ruinous relationship, to go back to school… We call them resolutions yet we break them willy nilly.

Resolutions are like dreams. Like all dreams it’s going to take a lot to accomplish them. Desire is the starting point of all attainment, but the realisation of a dream, any dream takes more than desire. Everyone can dream, but not everyone can accomplish a dream. Invariably that is the great divide of life. Achievers do more than dream. They pursue dreams, doggedly. Even dreams of marital fulfillment require commitment and hard work. Dreaming about a fantastic marriage is one thing, achieving it is another. It takes dogged pursuit, daily.

Good relationships require commitment, spelt in caps. And good relationships are not ready-made. Neither is a good marriage. You’ve got to work at it.

There are those things I call “fundamental irreducibles” in a relationship. The definition is a bit wide, though easily understood. Let me enunciate with illustrations and examples. As I cite them I’m sure you can relate to them.

A man and a woman may have quarrels once in a while in their relationship. But both know the quarrel has nothing to do with their commitment to each other. That commitment is non negotiable because they truly and genuinely love each other. That non negotiable commitment is a “fundamental irreducible.” Nothing can touch it. Their union is off limits, even to themselves. They know they’ll always get back together after a quarrel, because they want each other, need and can’t do without each other. Their relationship is not to be negotiated. That is a resolution. Third parties are not welcome either. Even without things being spelt out both parties are heart committed to the unwritten and unspoken.

Apart from joint resolutions an individual in a relationship often has his/her own fundamental irreducible. This fundamental is what he or she can’t take, what he or she can’t handle, what he or she has resolved never to do. A man may resolve never to cheat on his wife for example. That’s a fundamental irreducible for him. Because the wife knows this about him she may be more tolerant of his egregious romantic sins. He may forget birthdays, forget to open doors or engage in other desirable cosmetics of romanticism. But he’ll never cheat on his wife and everyone knows him for that. This gives a sense of security to the wife. When the chips are down, that fundamental is what the woman holds on to. She trusts him for that. It doesn’t matter what anyone says about her husband. She knows him for his fundamental irreducible. Makes her invest in the relationship without fear or limit. Women keep such fundamental irreducibles in the safe deposit boxes of their hearts.

For a man his safe deposit keepsake can be the knowing that his wife genuinely and truly loves him. He knows that when everything is chipped away that love can never be denied. That his wife is fully committed. And she’s proved it by making sacrifices. Nothing can matter. Such knowing keeps a relationship glued despite divergent gravitational exertions of busybodies. So I ask, What are the fundamental irreducibles in your relationship? What cannot be denied? What can’t you take? What can’t you or your husband handle? What cannot be denied about your husband? Or about you? What are the fundamentals of your marriage?

Fundamental irreducibles are big things. A marriage can be shaken to the roots when a fundamental is violated. Some women have landed in clinical depression in consequence. Some men have flipped. A fundamental irreducible is that which won’t be touched, can’t be touched, shouldn’t be touched. A fundamental irreducible is sacrosanct. Tread carefully around fundamental irreducibles. Avoid violating them. And this is not to say a breach of a fundamental irreducible should not be forgiven. Far from it. But some things are better avoided in a marriage or relationship. The price is too high.

It’s wise to find out what the fundamental irreducibles in your relationship are; to have honest discussions about them. Such knowledge helps us to be sensitive to the delicate inner architecture of our partners.

As for those resolutions we break easily… perhaps they are pointers to our need for God’s help. Clearly there are things we can’t do on our own. For those things we need God. Sometimes it’s just good to say to God, I can’t do this on my own, please help me. It’s even better to get up and pick up ourselves when we falter, and just keep going, trusting in God’s love. Afterall the fundamental irreducible of God’s relationship with us is his undeniable love for us.

I do wish you a very pleasant and fruitful year.

Your mentor, LA

© Leke Alder 2014

Tags : Fundamentals, Commitment, Marriage

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