What Healthy Marriages Require – Finding Solutions to Dramatic Episodes in Marriage Conversation
MC What Healthy Marriages Require – finding Solutions to Dramatic Episodes.
When I see grown men who are public figures talk about their marriages in terms of forgiveness, shame and guilt I know that they don’t know very much about marriage.
There are huge misconceptions about faithfulness, gaping holes in competencies, and virtually no idea of what marriage is. I see a great deal of ‘feeling’ based talk with little appreciation for the growth cycles in marriage.
Marriage is a collaborative affair. We are collaboratively involved in raising children, collaboratively involved in shaping our financial health, we brainstorm around our career choices and development of careers, but we do not do a good job of collaborating about our need for continued intimate connectedness.
My view is we hang out in a somewhat adolescent take on intimacy. I think it is natural to feel the vacuum that results as hormone levels decrease. That vacuum can be labeled. It can be called “I don’t love you.” Or, it can be called “you’re cold.” Without deep conversation from both partners that vacuum can define the quality of loving. And when that begins to happen a relationship becomes marginalized.
Collaborative loving would mean that individuals in a marriage find the courage to name the vacuum correctly. It would mean that each partner takes 100% responsibility for moving the conversation to a deeper level. That would involve looking at the impact children have on intimate connecting. It would involve a look at aging, career demands, personal (and historical) wounds and losses, and most of all, a clear exposing of the difficulty each of us has in moving into a deeper expression or manifestation of our loving.
Loving your partner is not at all what it started out to be. Let’s all say that out loud. Our cultural adolescent view focuses on how we ‘feel,’ on whether or not we are ‘turned on,’ and, of course, on whether we’re attractive to one another. Nothing wrong with being attractive but loving at successively deeper levels requires collaborative conversation that moves attractiveness into spiritual, emotional, intellectual and even mythic realms. It is a highly imaginative process and the fixation on ‘feelings’ will not get us there.
This morning I listened to Gov. Mark Sanford mention advice a good friend had offered. The advice focused on ‘it’s not about me’ and Gov. Sanford concluded he had been ‘selfish.’ Well, yes he had. But it also is about him. The pathway to connecting in successively deeper levels to his partner and wife is a pathway of fully facing what he himself is needing, what he himself desires, where his loneliness shows up, his limitations, his lack of comfort, his images of intimacy and so on.
This is the material for a collaborative conversation with his partner. You can be certain that she too has deep needs that need exposure between them. That she too is lonely, that she is limited and lacking comfort and has profound images of intimate connection. Her task would be to bring those revelations collaboratively to him. This is a pathway not for ‘reconciliation’ but – let’s name it correctly – for rebirth.
Marriages are living organisms that often and necessarily go through a kind of death. If your model of marriage can let that happen you can avoid going to a funeral. Instead you can embrace the ending, name it, and begin pushing the new baby, born of collaborative exploration, a new manifestation of intimacy, out into the light.
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