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May 7, 2019

My best friend in the world is a guy named Danny.  I’ve known him since I was in the 9th grade.  He’s 6 years older than me, but that never really mattered.  And now that we’re both old guys, it matters even less.  I’ve played my best golf with Danny, had more fun with him, and been more encouraged by him than just about any other guy in my life.  And then there’s the fact that he literally saved my life when I died of a LAD heart attack in January of 2011.

One of the things that makes our friendship so good is that we’re really quite different in a few significant ways.  One of these differences is that Danny loves change.  He thrives on it.  I hate change.  He’ll rearrange furniture, repaint walls (that haven’t been that color for very long), shift his daily schedule around without giving any of it a second thought.  Me?  Helen Keller could live with us.  I never rearrange the furniture, and in 45 years of marriage, I’ve painted walls a different color 3 times.

A PhD guy by the name of Everett M. Rogers wrote a book decades ago entitled The Diffusion of Innovations. After years of research and scientific investigation, he came up with a theory about how innovations move through a population.  There’s much more to it, but it comes down to what percentages of people are open to change, and what percentage are not.  Here’s a graphic that gives a visual for it, if you like bell curves…

The upshot is that about 2.5% of people are all about innovations.  They pretty much live to create them.  About 13.5% are happy to make changes.  About 16% will only change if they are forced to (and generally they do this resentfully – with what is called malicious compliance).  The rest (about 68% – the vast majority) are OK with change if they believe it is good for them.

So what’s this got to do with you and your marriage and family?  Lots, actually.  Because families and marriages are in constant dynamic change, you have to learn to manage both the changes that this involves and your feelings about change.  If you’re an innovator, you may have to slow your pace and slow down for your spouse and family.  If you’re a “laggard” (nothing personal…  It’s an unfortunate term used in Rogers’ writing), you may have to step into making changes that most everything in you will be screaming out against.

The bottom line is that if you don’t like to change, you have to adapt to the fact that the world and your marriage and family are full of changes that you don’t get to control.  And if you love change, you’re 16% of the the world.  The rest of the world isn’t nearly as much in love with change as you are.  No matter which of the categories of the bell curve you fall in, you have to adjust to the fact that the whole world isn’t just like you.  So don’t be so surprised when they don’t do change the way you do.

There’s an overwhelming amount of material about change and change theory.  Most of it is very academic (and often boring).  But you don’t need much specialized background to work with the idea that everybody has to learn to deal with change.  You can embrace it, hate it, ignore it, deny it, but you can’t change the fact that change is and always will be part of your life.  Adaptation is a skill that brings life and love and even happiness to families and marriages.

1. Where do you see yourself on the bell curve?
2. Where is your spouse on the bell curve?
3. Locate each of your children (even if they’re adults and on their own) on the bell curve?
4. How are you doing with adapting and adjusting not just to change, but to your spouse’s and your kids’ wiring for change?

I don’t have a formula for adapting and adjusting well.  I don’t think there is one.  But I know if I don’t focus on my habits and patterns in this area, I’ll leave a wake of collateral damage behind me.  Sometimes that collateral damage will cascade into succeeding generations.  The stakes are high.  So in partnership with the God Who set this whole dynamic change thing in motion, learn to adapt.  Because that’s one of the things love does.


From → Marriage, Parenting

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