A marriage is the creation of a new family by bringing together two distinct people from individual and very distinctly different backgrounds. The bringing together of two different people often can cause conflict. Merging families can also create a harmonious relationship of balance and teamwork if both of their differences and similarities compliment each other. After conducting an interview with Darlene and Mike Lumpkin it became very evident that theirs was a seemingly balanced and harmonious relationship. The interview asked questions about how things like their backgrounds, challenges together, boundaries, family interactions, and spirituality have developed into a family and marriage relationship that successfully navigates through life together. The couple walked into the interview with a very happy demeanor, which seemed to set the tone for the remainder of our conversation. Their happiness clearly showed by sitting very close to each other on the couch with their arms around each other. Mike shared jokingly that he felt like he was in a shrink’s office because of the blue couch.
His lightheartedness helped keep things comfortable. The interview began by asking them some detailed background information about their individual family upbringing and experiences. Out of respect to their time constraints they were each given a printed out copy of the interview schedule and asked to spend a few minutes answering the individual background questions. They then shared what they deemed relevant from their answers. After some discussion about background section, the interview progressed by going through each of the remaining questions. Mike Lumpkin is a 40-year-old male college graduate who is employed by a real estate company.
He has one younger brother and both parents are alive. His father is a pastor, which Mike shared, “my father has been a huge influence throughout marriage, family and in the way I live.” Mike described the majority of his family upbringing as stable, supportive and privileged. However, he wanted to highlight a particularly challenging time during college when he lost his best friend to suicide. He explained, “my faith got deeper through this experience because of all of the support of others.” The importance of faith is also reflective in his answers to questions about spending his free time with church and family. Darlene Lumpkin is a 43-year-old college graduate, housewife who has eight siblings. She started by highlighting the distinct differences between her and Mike’s family and upbringing.
Her father was divorced five times and was undiagnosed but had a history of Manic Depression. This obviously affected her saying: “That is the reason I got married at thirty-one.” Additionally she shared, “Girls like to marry someone like their father and I definitely did not.” She explained that all of her brothers had also been diagnosed or un-diagnosed with Manic Depression and or substance abuse issues. She expressed that although she is very close to her family that it is fractured. At twenty she lost her stepfather to a sudden, unexpected heart attack. During mid-twenties her fractured family influenced a bout with depression where she sought the help of a counselor. However, her answers on the sheet that she was given, indicated that her current outlook on life as very positive because of her relationship to Mike and their children. Mike and Darlene’s relationship started while working for the same company, the couple met at a training event. Sharing about how they met brought up a point of tension.
There was a hesitancy to share that Mike was living with another women when they first started dating. Darlene discovered this and there relationship was on and off. The tension in the room was awkward for a brief moment but did not last because Mike then expressed that although it started rough and that they came from very different backgrounds, they were supposed to be together. After two to three years, the couple was married. Two years later they had Grace, currently age nine, and then Seth age seven. There explanation of deciding when to have kids was, “We tried a dog, and it didn’t work so we thought we would try kids.” One key observation made surrounding this set of questions about their relationship was that although their backgrounds were different, their personalities really complimented each other to guide them through life’s challenges.
Although throughout the interview the couple seemed very happy talking about their marriage relationship, they did express some times in life, that in spite of being a challenge helped them grow closer. One such time occurred while working for the same company as store managers, their stores were down the street from each other causing them to be in direct competition. Additionally when Mike was laid off, Darlene found it difficult to interact with colleagues. Their families being brought together presented some of the greatest challenges, especially when they took in Darlene’s brother, who has battled an alcohol addiction. When an incidence occurred of him drinking at home while watching their children, they dealt with some confrontational stress. More recently another incidence happened when Darlene’s other brother attacked her personally. Mike and him got into some arguments but she chalked it up to his substance abuse and depression, saying, “All this drinking and addiction stuff has caused stress because Mike was not used to it.”
Considering how difficult some of the challenges were early on in their marriage, they did not seem to outweigh the strengths. Darlene said: “The biggest thing is Mike and I talk, weather it is comfortable or uncomfortable… you know the important things that need to be talked about.” Proper communication is vital to the success of a healthy long lasting marriage. Mike with Darlene agreed saying: “To sum it up we compliment each others’ strengths and weaknesses well.” Darlene wanted to also share that, “We both have a really good sense of humor, we can laugh at each other.” She shared that this was how they got through the difficult family situations. Their solid communication, humor, and complimenting personalities, were obvious strengths to their relationship. Frequently during the interview they both expressed that their children dictate much of how they are guided as a married couple and as a family.
Family became even more of a priority because Darlene quit her very successful upper-management job in order to spend more time with their children. Mike expressed the importance of this, “What it comes down to is her and I are responsible for this family we brought into this world.” The only negative aspect of their relationship, specifically as in relation to boundaries was that they both agreed that marital intimacy had suffered. According to them this was one area of their marriage that could use some growth. Although not always the case it is reported as being a common problem for married couples to have decreased intimacy as a result of children. They both agreed that a way to combat this was being more intentional about the time they did have as a couple such as dates and anniversaries.
Regardless of how much it was agreed that this was an area with a need for growth in their marriage, their boundaries seemed to be very healthy and clearly defined by their family as a whole. A reoccurring theme throughout the interview with Mike and Darlene was how much their spirituality influenced their marriage and family. Faith became particularly helpful during the difficulties with their families coming together. Mike: “I don’t know that we would have been as strong, I don’t know that we could have got through our situations without faith.” They have intentionally included their Christian faith throughout their relationship as a foundation for how their family operates and leans in times of life challenges. A lot of how their family is guided is by their faith and membership to a United Methodist Church.
Both shared that they enjoyed spending a great majority of their free time volunteering in church activities. Mike, “Faith for us has been huge.” When asked why they felt this was relevant, they expressed that their children are cared for, nurtured, and supported in this environment. Darlene, “Our kids love church, I feel like it has become a family or support for us, we get more back from it then we put in.”
They seemed to share about their relationship to their church as if it were an extended family that could be leaned on for support when needed but would allow for others to lean on them too if need be. Darlene and Mike are a truly amazing couple. A marriage that seems so balanced in spite of the many life challenges, and personality differences that they encounter. Although they would not admit so, their marriage is a perfect blend of two complimentary individuals. Having clearly defined family boundaries, complimenting each other’s strengths and weaknesses, while being guided by and supported in Christian faith, they continue to navigate through life together.