Not A News Flash - Relationships Are Really Difficult!
Written By: Mark Smith
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A familiar refrain that my clients hear from me is ‘don’t you think that this love and marriage thing should be a whole lot less complicated and less painful’. I have a theory about that, but first let me give you a small picture of the carnage that I have witnessed just this week. The stories have been changed to protect the confidentiality of these wonderful hard working people, but the pain remains. A battle weary thrice divorced woman in her late thirties dragged herself in for a much needed emergency session to process her latest relationship implosion – a breakup with a well meaning but intimacy debilitated fellow. A young professional Asian couple is rocked by the devastating impact of the husband’s out of control rage issues. A severely workaholic middle aged doctor is absolutely terrified that he has already lost his attractive wife. A Middle Eastern woman cries out in dark bitterness about her husband’s neglect, workaholism, and long standing affair. A 40- something wife walls herself off from the pain generated from her husband’s severe relationship addiction. A good looking pair of successful young accountants tries to hang on to what is left of their marriage that has been ravaged by her affair and his reactive inability to forgive. A successful handsome young black couple struggles to repair their ability to communicate which has been stymied by the wife’s seemingly impregnable psychological defenses. Racial background doesn’t matter - red and yellow, black and white we are all dysfunctional in His sight!
If you haven’t checked out Mary J Blige’s new CD ‘Growing Pains’ you should. It is really hot, and it is really real. In my favorite cut on the album she sings ‘It ain’t all roses, flowers and posies, it ain’t all candy, this love stuff is demanding.’ Ain’t that the truth! If you have been in a relationship for longer then a few short years you know what I’m talking about. This love stuff is surely very demanding and painful.
So why are relationships so hard you ask? Don’t get me started on my very favorite subject. It is because love isn’t at all about what we think it is. We think it is about happiness, bliss, and fulfillment. Actually, unfortunately, love is about pain, breaking down our psychological defenses, and ultimately making us face and attempt to heal our deepest ancient childhood wounds. We are all wounded during our personalities’ foundation building time period – childhood. Fortunately coping mechanisms develop which help even the most abused of us deal with life in a fairly normal manner. But here is the thing; nature has a way of wanting to heal itself. Nature takes over and heals body if you are wounded. Nature or God would also like to heal your deepest emotional wounds, but those darn helpful coping mechanism are in the way. So, nature or God developed a wonderful and a horrible mechanism to knock walls down that would get in the way of us truly knowing the truth about ourselves – it is called relationship and marriage. Basically we are only attracted to people who are disguised versions of our parents’ worst qualities. I’m sorry to tell you that. Do you see now why marriage is so difficult? We are reenacting our childhood drama with people who really are the least qualified to truly see and love us. Listen to me people, this is NOT psychobabble here. This is the truth about love and marriage. Marriage IS therapy. It is all about being forced to work on your deepest wounds while learning to appropriately voice your needs.
So my message is actually a very positive one to all of the above mentioned battered pilgrims who journey to my office in search of healthy, satisfying, and safe love. The message is this – it is all good; it just looks and feels like a complete disaster. There is not a thing wrong with their marriages; their marriages are actually providing them with exactly what they signed on for. I tell them the problem is the two dysfunctional people in the marriage. I tell them that there are NO victims and NO bad guys. I tell them to embrace their pain and quit pointing their fingers at the other guy. I tell them that if both of them are able to do the work that they might just as well stay in the marriage that they are in. I have seen that simple powerful message save literally hundreds of marriages.
What is your story? How is your marriage? What childhood patterns do you see replaying in your marriage? Think about it; you really might want to get that looked at. I’ll talk with you again next week.
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