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Me And My Sparrow
Written By: Mark Smith


Healing Toxic Shame Through Recovery
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Managing Abandonment  Issues Through Recovery
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Me and my (Sp)arrow
Straighter than narrow
Wherever we go, every one knows
Its me and my (Sp)arrow

Forgive me, but as I contemplated writing this article I couldn't help but have the old Diana Ross tune roll around in my head. My favorite tool for explaining our most important take on marital problems is a cute little story about a sparrow - it goes like this: Once upon a time, there was a nonconforming sparrow who 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. Let me explain - it is our strong belief that any and all spouses (yes, even yours) are gifts from God 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. The heart and soul of Family Tree Counseling Associate's message is that we ALL have a perfect 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. This is why children of alcoholics invariably marry alcoholics, why abandoned children marry spouses who ultimately run off with the choir director, why kids with controlling parents grow up to marry controlling spouses, etc. This very much so applies to you as well. 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. They say that love is blind and in a way it is - during the powerful early enmeshment stage we are blinded to the many ways our new love is like our parents. In a way they are disguised. In our enthusiasm and in our over-idealizing of the object of our desires we miss out on just why we are so strongly attracted to them and not the other attractive possibilities around us.

I don't wish to argue with you over this, however. Another foundation of the Family Tree brand of therapy is that as therapists we open up and openly share our vulnerabilities. We feel that to do so is both healthy and extremely instructive to the clients. A great therapist is a flawed human being who has done a lot of his or her own healing. Great therapists are not produced in graduate schools - they birthed on the receiving end of the therapist's couch. I would like to share about me and my former sparrow.

I come from a wonderful and yet highly dysfunctional family. Both of my parents were extremely wounded people. 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 Granddad wasn't really her biological father. My mother grew up not understanding why her father rejected and abused her. When a handsome Air Force fellow with a cool car proposed she jumped at the chance to escape her tyrant of a father. It was either marriage or the monastery and Mom was too just much fun to spend her life as a nun.

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. I was #2. My Dad was never there for us - he was either in Vietnam (which he volunteered for to avoid my mother's rage and criticism), playing bridge, reading the paper, watching TV, eating or otherwise occupied. My Mother had all the responsibility of 7 kids and it made her an angry, overwhelmed and self-destructive woman. I grew up walking on eggshells trying to avoid my mother's shrieking rage. We were poor, we had cockroaches, I had the shaming experience of asking for my free lunch at school every day and neither parent was there for me.

I met my former wife during my 2nd year of college at Taylor University. There was something very intriguing in her quiet demeanor. When I would return from a horrible weekend of rage, 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 had become a strong Christian and I was certain that my wonderful new loves of both Lisa and Jesus would heal me and put into the past forever the sadness and the brokenness of my painful childhood. I was not aware of any flaws that my sweetie had and she at least wasn't mentioning any of mine. We didn't fight, we prayed together a lot and our love grew every day. I now know that this was our "enmeshment" stage. Everyone who ever fell in love goes through it - it is addictive, bonding and a whole lot of fun. The problem with it is that it just doesn't last, for us or for any couple.

While I am very comfortable with sharing my family issues, but my Ex has asked me to limit the details of her family stuff on the Internet, which I repsect. So, I will simply say that my Ex was perfect for me. She was exactly who I needed to force me to work on healing the huge wounds that I carried around in my heart.

There are no marriages made in heaven. That is a myth. If you think that yours is, then just give it 5 to 7 years and come talk with me then. When the enmeshment wears off and 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. Unfortunately, what takes place more often than not is that couples descend to an awful marital hell through finger pointing, rage, victim stances, shaming, blaming and just not understanding what marriage is and what it's purpose is. All is fair in marriage - nothing is unfair. We pick who we need to pick and they collude with us to re-create our hurtful childhoods so that God can have a chance to heal us deeply from our cores. Anyone who has ever been in a relationship has been in therapy even if they have never darkened the door of a therapist's office.

Me and my Sparrow. Straighter than narrow. Wherever we go, every one knows. Its me and my Sparrow.




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This article was authored by Family Tree Counseling Associates, a marriage, individual and family counseling center serving the Indianapolis, Carmel, Fishers, Westfield and Noblesville communities in Indiana. If you would like to contact us, please fill out a contact us form or call us at 317-844-2442.
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