The Wick On That Marital Fuse Was Lit 40 Years Ago!
Written By: Mark Smith
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Almost every marriage is destined to blow up at some point. Have you noticed that? Many years ago most broken, miserable, blown up marriages stayed together due to fear, habit, tradition and women lacking viable financial options. I'm not sure that was a good or healthy thing as we are destined to reenact the marriage modeled in front of us every day. These crises points don't necessarily have to result in divorce. In the best circumstances the pain generated from the blow up can motivate both parties to do deep, insightful, game changing work on themselves. When I say to my clients that even excruciating marital pain is a gift and an opportunity to work on themselves that they should actually be thankful for I get a lot of looks that suggest that I might be more than a little bit nuts myself. Well, I AM more than a little bit nuts but I am right about being thankful for marital pain.
While discussing generations of dysfunction in his family with a client last week, he said something I found to be extremely profound. While describing a family member's blown up marriage he said "The wick on that fuse was lit 40 years ago!". The same could be said for most of us. Prime time for marital issues coming to a head is from about ages 35 to 45. The honeymoon is definitely over, the kids are more independent and the combatants are lonely, sad, angry, bitter, needy, unhappy and desperately needing a change of some sort. The wick on the fuse gets lit in childhood when parents were too addictive, depressed, discouraged, unhappy, overwhelmed, self-centered, abusive, abandoning, critical, withholding and otherwise not present for their needy little brood. You will find someone to love you as an adult who is psychologically put together very similarly to the folks who hurt you the most while you were growing up. I wish that wasn't true but it is absolutely, positively the truth.
Thankfully we are issued rugged psychological defenses soon after we are wounded as children. The purpose of these thick, protective walls is to help us grow up, get the heck out of Dodge, get our training, settle into a marriage, have some kids and get fully ensconced in young adulthood with as little pain, disturbance or actual personal insight as humanly possible. The problem is that we all jump right from the frying pan of our dysfunctional childhoods into the fire of a marriage to someone we ultimatately discover is every bit as crazy as mom and dad and crazy in the same ways that they were. It just takes seven to ten years for most of us to realize what we have done to ourselves. The fuse is burning all through your childhood, your twenties and much, if not all of your thirties before the bomb that has been within you your whole life goes off. It is horribly painful and messy but it is a blessing in disguise. The dynamite that we collected during our damaged childhoods has been safely stored deep inside of us just waiting for the day for that fuse to be fully consumed
That day can come when we discover our spouse's affair, when we feel our own boredom, when we have an explosive argument with our beloved or when you both realize that things just aren't working at all.
Some marriages die a slow, sad, disconnected death that ends with an anti-climatic whimper. Other marriages go out with the force of an Atomic blast that mars the family's safety, reputation and emotional environment for many decades to come.
The pain from your particular marital caldron can ultimately be proactive, healing, enlightening and very positive or you can let it destroy you altogether. Your marital pain is meant to teach and instruct you. It is there to make you ask hard questions about YOURSELF, not hard questions about your spouse. You are completely missing the point if you are blaming and overly focusing on the failings of your spouse. You are responsible for your life. You designed it. You invited your spouse on board because they were the right person at the right time to help you heal and grow and learn about yourself as never before.
If you and your partner cease pointing fingers, direct your focus to the person in the mirror and humbly seek to feel, learn and heal then you are in for an amazing adventure indeed. You can keep your house from being blown to bits. You can turn a bomb blast into a life long, beautiful fountain of stability, happiness and fulfillment. That is a great deal! It is slow, painful, hard work, I assure you. But it is worth all the blood, sweat and tears. You can rebuild your marriage with the foundations of mutual respect, deep intimacy, Recovery, shared power, truly seeing and hearing one another, a rekindled and intense sexual passion, friendship and genuine partnership in every sense of the word. That beats the heck out of a bitter, destructive divorce. Embrace the pain of your marriage. It isn't meant to destroy you. It is meant to bless, enhance and enrich you. When the wick of your fuse, lit so many years ago when you were innocent and powerless, finally reaches all that hidden TNT, make it a redemptive blast that makes you a much better person and a much better spouse.
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