Your Marital Problems Are Actually A Gift
Written By: Mark Smith
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Once upon a time, there was a nonconforming sparrow that decided not to fly south for the winter. However, soon the weather turned so cold that he reluctantly started to fly south. In a short time ice began to form on his wings and he fell to the earth in a barnyard, almost frozen. Then a cow passed by and crapped all over the little bird. The sparrow thought his life was over, but in fact the manure warmed him and defrosted his wings. Warm and happy and able to breathe, he started to sing. Then a cat came by, heard the chirping, cleared away the manure, found the little bird and promptly ate him. The moral of the story is #1 everyone who craps on you is not necessarily your enemy. And #2 everyone who gets you out of the crap is not necessarily your friend.
I've probably personally read that story to over 1000 couples through the years. I think that is contains an incredible amount of wisdom. It is our strong belief that any and all spouses are gifts to aid us in healing our unresolved wounds and issues from our childhoods. As I have suggested to many a client through the years that they should be thankful for the pain that their spouses have caused them I have gotten smirks, frowns and facial expressions that seemed to suggest that I was the one needing therapeutic services. We all have a radar system that unfailingly attracts us the exactly the right person whose unknowing mission is to hurt us in exactly the same way that our parents hurt us as we grew up. I have proven this to every couple that has ever sat in front of me - when it is spelled out in black and white it is very hard to argue with.
I myself come from a wonderful and yet highly dysfunctional family. My Dad's mother was 14 when he was born, his father denied that he was his father and his stepfather abused him both physically and verbally. He was brought up is stark poverty - both from an emotional and a material perspective. He was a self absorbed lost, sad and helpless little boy walking around in a father's body. My mother was a product of a married man seducing my Grandmother when she was a teenager who was babysitting he and his wife's children. My mother was shipped off to an orphanage for the first several years of her life. When my Grandmother married she picked mom up at the orphanage and never ever shared the secret with her that her new mean dad wasn't really her biological father. When a handsome Air Force fellow with a cool car proposed she jumped at the chance to escape her tyrant of a father.
These confused and deeply wounded young people for some reason decided to produce 4 children by my mother's 22nd year and 3 more by her 30th birthday! My dad was never around. My Mother had all the responsibility of 7 kids and it made her an angry, overwhelmed and self-destructive woman.
I met my wife during my 2nd year of college at Taylor University. When I would return from a horrible weekend of depression and hurtfulness back at home she would listen to me, wipe away my tears and hold me. She loved me like I had never been loved. She was quiet, nurturing, sweet, generous, strong and stable (or the exact opposite of my Mother). During our lingering hugs in front of South Hall I felt waves of powerful, unconditional liquid love surging between us.
I want to share a story from our first year of dating that for me has always been a metaphor for how my particular beloved sparrow was actually a hidden version of my parents' inadequate love for me. In the fall of 1979 I went back to Taylor while my future wife transferred to Purdue. I was a mess. I was shocked and saddened when my warm nurturing source of sweet, tender unconditional love didn't call, or visit and she didn't write nearly enough to satisfy my needy appetite. She was busy making the Dean's list while tackling 19 hours of very difficult math and science courses, working at McDonald's, attending church three times a week and typing papers in her spare time for extra income. Due to her driven perfectionism, her fierce independence, her workaholism and her need to please her family's controlling religious obligations she had no time for herself and no time for me. She abandoned me just like my parents had. I then did what I have learned to do all through out our marriage - I over compensated for her distancing nature by overly pursuing her. I transferred to Purdue in order to fight for bits of her attention. Due to her childhood wounds I learned that my "perfect love" actually was by nature critical (like Mom), a distancer (like Dad), sort of fun challenged (unlike mom), emotionally withholding, unable to praise (as she herself had never received praise), and not very nurturing at all. In short, she was exactly who I needed to force me to work on healing the huge wounds that I carried around in my heart.
When your spouse starts to knock down your defenses and touch you in your deeply wounded spots then I like to say that the marriage is in purgatory. Through hard work, quality therapy, accountability, communication, insight, voicing needs directly and non-reactively, couples can reach up and occasionally taste a marriage that includes true slices of heaven. That is my wish for your marriage.
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