Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Learning Curve

Such a lovely epiphany at times, to discover that I'm not just getting older but that I'm getting smarter. Nine years ago, both together and in separate sessions, my husband and I were coming to the end of nearly three months of some pretty intense marriage counseling. It's a bright revelation to me that I am still using the tools I acquired during those therapy sessions. Often not in a manner I am conscious of, but rather like I have incorporated those lessons learned into my everyday thought process. And sometimes illumination is triggered by outside sources. I'm going to gush now. This is your fair warning. Skip over the italicized words if fan-girl-style gushing makes you squeamish. I love advice columnist Carolyn Hax. She is so smart and real and cuts to the chase and through the bullshit. She does it with style and kindness and the authenticity of a seasoned warrior who has battled in the trenches of real life and love and family and the relationships they spawn. I want to live next door to her and be best friends. We'll have each other over for coffee or a glass of wine and gossip over the fence. We'll have an open-door policy, especially for emergencies like needing to borrow accessories to properly complete an outfit. In last Friday's column she was addressing the pre-nup issues of a couple who are from vastly different cultural backgrounds. Even though this specific problem isn't one that I encountered in my marriage, Carolyn's (yes, I'm pretending we're on a first-name basis) following observation really hit me where I live.

Too many people enter that state [marriage] more with an "I don't want to break up so I'll make this sacrifice" mindset than "I genuinely don't give a fig..."

After reading that for the first time I had to sit back for a moment and allow it to sink in. It had triggered the recollection of a particular counseling session where I discovered that I did this thing called modeling. Instead of telling my husband in a direct and clear manner what I wanted and needed, I would engage in doing for him what I desired from him and hope he would learn from my example and reciprocate. At that point in our relationship I had been banging my head against that particular wall for twenty years. Without results. I know, I know, define insanity for me. This behavior had given rise to me making sacrifices about things I genuinely cared about or was concerned over in order to keep us intact as a couple. In the hope that he would recognize this, appreciate it, and then do the same for me. It didn't happen. So insidious was this ingrained dynamic that it took years to fathom the toll it had taken on the intimacy and very foundation of our marriage. And now, having just passed the eight year anniversary of my divorce being final, I feel just a little smarter. A little closer to wholeness. I can discern the very enormous difference between sacrifice and not giving a fig. Where before they were peas occupying a matrimonial pod. Muddling is essential for fruity cocktail ingredients and a very good thing. Muddling of disparate issues to keep the peace is a destructive habit and a very bad thing. Turns out, I do give a fig.

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