The Script

My dad bought his current car for a $1.

No lie. And yes, the van has tires, an engine, and even a steering wheel. The purchase was fair and square. No one was shot in the process. There is no arrest warrant out for his thievery, though in an unrelated incident, a policeman did question him at a Dunkin’ Donuts because his face resembled that of an at large armed burglar.

A couple disclaimers regarding his car. It is nothing fancy. The air conditioner does not work. If you want to listen to music, bring your favorite cassette tapes. We are not talking Porsche or Mercedes-Benz here. But it is not a lemon either. The van runs like the Energizer bunny. Even with sweat pouring down his face in the suffocating heat of a Tennessee summer, my dad says his van is a dream come true. After all, he bought it for a $1.

Family Messages
My dad’s joy summarizes the message I learned about the purchasing of cars as I grew up. The family message I heard was: We do not buy new cars. I would not be surprised if my parents dreamt up the philosophy that once you drive a new car off the lot, it immediately loses value. Surely this is news to you. You cannot find that kind of wisdom in Proverbs. My parents invented it. You’re welcome.

Recently my wife and I decided it was time to buy a mini-van. My dad offered to sell me his van for $2. We declined his kind offer. I learned rather quickly that I do not like the process of purchasing a car. Once you finally land on the brand and make of the desired car, more questions surface. Do we buy new? Do we buy a couple years old? Or do we save major money and buy an old car from someone we trust has taken care of it? Or do we scan Craiglist, buy an old car, and plan to pour the necessary money into it?

So many choices.

And beneath all the choices are the messages my wife and I brought in from our family upbringing. Our family messages subconsciously write scripts we feel we should follow. My script about the purchase of a car went something like this: Brasels pay in cash, and we buy used. Because my wife had a different family story, she has a different script. Her resistance toward buying new was nothing like mine.

Then something happened. My dad bought my mom a new car. It was an earthquake which brought my well-built paradigm crashing down. The forbidden became permissible. Not just permissible, but also practical. New information infused and edited my script: When the goal is to drive the car into ground, to use the vehicle until it is no longer usable and resale will never be an option, it is therefore acceptable to purchase new.

With my script altered, I found new lenses to look through as my wife and I discussed what van best suited our needs.

Thankfully, the decision of what and how to buy a car did not expose scripts that were all that different between my wife and me. Often though, we do encounter decisions and conversations where our scripts completely differ. A colleague of mine has an exercise he uses with couples in his counseling office. He will hand them a pre-written script and ask them to read aloud. Each will assume they are reading from the same screenplay. They are not. A few lines into the reading, confused eyes look over top their respective books. You were supposed to say “__”. No, I was supposed to say “__” and you were supposed to say “__”. Their eyes drift back to the counselor. This is not going as planned.

We carry different scripts into most, if not all, of marriage. Count the moments pure joy when you and your spouse agree wholeheartedly on an issue or plan. When decisions and conversations do not flow easily, consider your own script.

Here are some practical script questions:

  • What expectations do I bring to this topic?
  • If the decision were completely up to me, how would the process or decision go?
  • Does my script leave any room for my spouse’s view?

If you want to go deeper than simply uncovering your script, you can trace your story beneath your script:

  • Where did I learn to expect the house to be clean when I returned home from work?
  • Who taught me there was a right and wrong way to mow the lawn?
  • Where does my preference for home school over public school originate?

In most of the issues and decisions a couple makes, there is hardly a right or wrong answer. Sometimes there is. The husband who considers whether or not to have an affair might consider the script his upbringing helped write, but his father’s adulterous lifestyle in no way gives his son license for the same behavior. But most of the time couples must work through issues without a clear right and wrong. Let us brainstorm a few:

  • What time do we put the kids to bed?
  • Should the toilet paper pull upward or downward?
  • Do we want a television in our bedroom?
  • Will we buy the generic or name brand dishwasher soap?
  • The car needs an oil change: Synthetic or conventional oil?

Sometimes, too, we simply have personal preferences. He likes Italian food, and she likes Mexican. Desires do not always revolve around a script we brought from our upbringing. In times of disagreement, though, it is good to humbly consider whether a script may be in play.

Upon entering marriage, you have a script about how this journey should go. Your script is based on your story. Your script will not be your spouse’s because he/she carries a different story. Know your story. Know your script. Or it could work conversely. You may discover your script invites you to explore your story. That is great, too. Either way, you will love your spouse well when you understand what expectations and philosophies you carry into the marriage.

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Luke Brasel writes about relationships, intimacy, parenting, and Christian spirituality. He is passionate about the intersection of theology and the human heart. He has a counseling practice in Nashville, TN where he helps people follow their pain to understand their story and recover their heart. When he is not counseling, teaching, or writing, he is learning more about life and love from his wife and twin daughters. You can read his blog at and follow him on Twitter.

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