The Wall In A Marriage Can Be Cold And Tragic
Written By: Mark Smith
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My wife and I recently began attending a program at a local church called "The Marriage Course". In the introductory video an extremely poignant poem was quoted. As soon as I heard it I knew that I had the topic for this week's column. Unfortunately the author of the poem was not mentioned either in any of the courses' materials or when I found it on-line. I would love to give the unknown author credit for their powerful words. If you are living in a distant marriage of any length this poem is going to touch you.
Their wedding picture mocked them from the table
These two whose lives no longer touched each other.
They loved with such a heavy barricade between them
That neither battering rams of words
Nor artilleries of touch could break it down.
Somewhere between the oldest child's first tooth
And youngest daughter's graduation
They lost each other.
Throughout the years each slowly unraveled
That tangled ball of string called self
And as they tugged at stubborn knots
Each hid their searching from the other.
Sometimes she cried at night and begged
The whispering darkness to tell her who she was
While he lay beside her snoring like a
Hibernating bear unaware of her winter.
Once after that had made love he wanted to tell her
How afraid he was of dying
But fearing to show his naked soul he spoke instead
About the beauty of her breasts.
She took a course in modern art trying to find herself.
In colors splashed upon a canvas
And complaining to other women about men
Who were insensitive.
He climbed into a tomb called the office
Wrapped his mind in a shroud of paper figures
And buried himself in customers.
Slowly the wall between them rose cemented
By the mortar of indifference.
One day reaching out to touch each other
They found a barrier they could not penetrate
And recoiling from the coldness of the stone
Each retreated from the stranger on the other side.
For when love dies it is not in a moment of angry battle
Nor when fiery bodies lose their heat.
It lies panting exhausted expiring
At the bottom of a wall it could not scale.
Keeping a marriage alive and well is so hard. People change so much over the years. It takes so much openness, focus, sensitivity, hard work, and commitment to keep the system from disintegrating. The truth is that most people simply were not equipped by their upbringings to have the tools to sustain a marriage for the long haul. Whether they stay married or get divorced the majority of couples have their own version of the wall the poem speaks of. What does that wall look like in your marriage? What gets in the way of safe, intimate, affirming communication?
Let me share 3 very common versions of marriage destroying walls that I run across every day in my marriage counseling practice. #1 Shame - shame isn't about feeling ashamed, it is simply over reacting to the critiquing from your spouse. If they offer a criticism on a 2 level out of ten, a shame based person hears it as a scathing 8 level attack and reacts accordingly. If both partners have a lot of shame I know that each session is going to be an ugly wrestling match if I'm not on my game. Shame will destroy communication and ratchet up marital strife in a heartbeat.
#2 Counterdependency - This is a long and not too well known concept that plagues millions of marriages. It is when one partner is grandiose, arrogant, know it all, unaccountable, independent, oblivious, self-absorbed, workaholic and controlling. Do you know anyone like that? Are you married to someone like that? They are fundamentally incapable of letting new information in. Everything is edited and censored by all that the Counterdependent thinks they know already. The other partner is frequently codependent or by nature insecure, dependent, other centered and passive. One of them doesn't have a voice and the other doesn't have ears to hear. Both parties have an undeveloped sense of themselves. You can see how that would eliminate any effective communication.
#3 Addictive Behavior - When one or both partners is stoned on drugs, alcohol, work, food, TV, sex, relationships, video games, the Internet, etc. communication comes to a standstill. The drug of choice blots out much of what the spouse might have to say. An addict needs painful consequences before they will ever be broken and sane enough to truly hear.
If your marriage is stuck behind any of these common walls you are going to need some help. Much of the value of marital therapy is providing a safe environment that encourages and insures that both parties have both voices and ears. When my work is going well I don't say much in a session - the couple is addressing each other directly, speaking heart to heart. Don't let these walls leave you lonely, disconnected and ultimately in a bitter divorce dispute. Isn't it time for those walls to start coming down? We are out of space. See you next week.
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