Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Feeling the Heat

Marriage. The area we will be reflecting on in this next season in our Adelphi world. I embark upon this new season of writing about this topic with a touch of anxiety and lots of care. Marriage is so personal and private, and most of us don’t really want to expose our experiences. I mean the REAL experiences, not the ones we post about on Facebook.

So here I go, fumbling and learning as I go. Sharing about my marriage for the benefit of my own little nuclear family, but also to invite others to have a place where they can be open about theirs.  

So, Mark and I are both in therapy. Separately and with different counselors. Don’t you wish your marital challenges were so complicated that both partners needed to be in therapy? It’s amazing. 

There are 2 things that have recently dawned on me about our marriage, that make our relationship challenging. Generally speaking, we are very different. For example, Mark suffers from FOBO (Fear of Better Options). This is something mentioned in some commercial somewhere on TV. This means analyzing and analyzing and re-analyzing options. “Do I buy the green pen or the blue one? The green matches the grass, the blue matches the sky. But do I even like grass? It gives me stains on my clothes when I fall on it. I’ll pick the blue. But actually, the blue one is 2 cents more expensive, and I don’t really care about the sky that much. So why not go with orange?” 

I enter the scene, and I suffer from FOWT (Fear of Wasting Time). This isn’t a real thing…I made it up. But I do have this condition. If something takes more than 60 seconds to decide on, I start getting incredibly antsy. And my fears set in. “Do you know what we could be doing right now besides analyzing a stupid writing utensil? We could be doing something fun, reading a book, learning something new, swimming in a pool, chatting with a friend, or telling funny jokes. So many other things I’d rather be doing.” No matter how important the decision is, faster is better. I’ve got other things to do. Wasting time is not one of them. 

So you see the obvious and inherent conflict developing.  

Next, Mark is a Skilled Avoider. Let’s say a problem develops between us. Mark says, “What problem? I don’t see a problem. I see rainbows and perfection.” And I usually take it upon myself to uncover the damage myself and say, “Really?! You don’t see that? What are you, blind? That’s not a rainbow, that is a ton of dirt swept under the rug!” 

When I see my own wounds and problems arise, I think, “What is that doing there? I really need that to be dealt with so that I can feel better. Like, now. So I ponder, where did it come from? How did it get there? Who can help me with this and when are they available? I don’t want anything to hold me back. I want to be my best and feel my best as often as possible. One of our dear mentor friends has called me a Scab Picker. Doesn’t that sound disgusting? I’m not sure whether that is an insult or a compliment. I still don’t know. Thankfully, I love them so much I can live in the suspense of not knowing. But paired with a Skilled Avoider, you see the storms brewing.  

When there is little to no conflict in marriage, someone is not being their true selves. Because we are all different, none of us are clones. But some of us try to be a clone to avoid conflict. This doesn’t work, and we’ve been told by trusted marriage experts that the couples who don’t fight much or at all, are the ones they are the most concerned about. So, we don’t need to avoid conflict. It’s a good (and uncomfortable) thing.  

Why? Well, one of our therapists recently told us this: “People don’t change because they see the light. They change because they feel the heat.” Meaning, it’s not enough for me to just know that I’m impatient or struggle with anger. I will not change just by knowing that or “seeing the light.” I will change when my behavior and struggles in this area destroys someone’s feelings, fights break out, and chaos is on the loose. When I’m in enough pain, then I will change. When I “feel the heat.”  

So let us not process big collisions as being terrible or horrible or a disastrous marriage. Because collisions mean that people are feeling the heat! Feeling the heat leads to change. Yay! Change! And new relational paths can be forged, marriages have hope for healing, and entire families can begin to change. 

So what about you? What are some differences between you and your spouse? Can you think of a story where you both “felt the heat” and positive change came as a result?

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