Friday, March 13, 2009

Before it's too late

I was at a workshop today on couple therapy.

One of the topics that came up was the reluctance of one partner to hear the other spouse's pain...and do something about it.

A therapist mentioned the painful picture of having a couple come into therapy after one spouse says: "Enough". Enough of the distance, enough of trying to make the partner hear of the loneliness. Enough of pleading, trying to make something happen. The exhausted, burned out spouse says: "Enough. I'm not doing this any more. I'm done." And means it.

Suddenly the partner hears it, and understands the seriousness of it. The partner "gets it"--big time. Kicks into gear, books the counselling appointment, and in horror and shock at facing the death of a marriage, begins to plead for the marriage. Comes home from work on time. Fixes the things that have been on the "to do list" for months. Actively participates in childcare, shows up at games--all the things that have been complained about for years. The imminence of divorce propels action in frenetic ways.

Only it's too late. When "enough" was said, it was too late. The last chances were already offered and pulled off the table.

When one therapist said this, there were sad smiles of knowing all around the room. We've all seen these couples. The sad part is when it happens, the spouse that wasn't accessible and responsive really is sincere about wanting to make the marriage work (and has wanted to be married all along). Statistically, this spouse is most often male. The distancing isn't about being a's about the challenge of being intimate with someone in a culture that ridicules it and makes it difficult, it's about pulling away from someone who makes you feel like you are never enough and can never measure up. It's turning away from something you feel lousy at, to move towards an area where you have competence--like your job or the hockey team. So often, these men value and love their wives, and want a good marriage, but don't know how, and they pull away from the uncomfortable feelings...

...and don't realize that this results in pulling away from your life's love in ways that seem intolerable to her.

If your wife emails this post to you, or calls you over to read it while she's surfing's not too late. Listen to her (or him if it is your husband that wants you to know this). "Get it" now. Hear how desperate your spouse is to connect with you in a meaningful way, and dare to figure out how to make this work for both of you

...before it's too late.

No comments: