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Making Marriage Simple

Crystal and I have decided to do a 10 week challenge. We are going through the exercises in Harville and Helen’s book Making Marriage Simple – 10 Relationship Saving Truths, which we use with our clients. Over the next few months I will post our blogs on each of these “Relationship Saving Truths”.

John: Truth #1 Romantic Love is a Trick.

In the Imago model we are attracted to someone who has some of both the positive but also negative traits of our original caretakers. It is the positive traits, of course, which attract us to a new potential mate in the romantic love stage of the relationship but the trick part is that the negative traits are included in the package.

The Exercise we were asked to complete was to look at the frustrations we had growing up and compare them to the frustrations we now have with our partner. What I realized in doing this exercise is that I really don’t have any frustrations with my partner now. True, we have been using this process for the last 28 years, but what is going on?

A couple of things come to mind. One is the Zen saying:

  • Before Enlightenment – Chop wood, haul water.
  • After Enlightenment – Chop wood, haul water.

Nothing changes, but everything changes. The real change is inside one’s head and heart and I think the same is true in our relationship. Neither of us is perfect, far from it. I have had a saying of Alfred Adler on my office wall for years: Have the courage to be imperfect. We are both just human. Your energy follows your attention and I think we both tend to focus on the positives in each other, while at the same time if something does comes up that is serious we also have the tools to deal with that.

I can go back to when we first started this work, a frustration I had was when Crystal was late. (We will deal with this more in Chapter 7) My reactive response was that I wasn’t important to her or something else was more important. That was what was going on in my head, but that is not why she was late. There could have been many reasons for her lateness. When I said I don’t have any frustrations now – if she is late, I don’t go to that place in my head that I am not important. I just want to make sure she is ok and find out what happened. On the outside nothing has changed. On the inside, everything has changed. Hope that makes sense.

Crystal: Truth #1 Romantic Love is a Trick

After presenting at a marriage prep retreat, I thought it would be good for John and I to review the exercises we teach our clients, not on an intellectual level, but rather to once again actually do the exercises together.

We haven’t done this for a while so the practice would be good as well as giving us time together not discussing business or the garden!

Our first exercise was called Then and Now.

I was somewhat apprehensive about the exercise as I wondered if something would surface that I wasn’t aware of at the moment.

I looked at my childhood frustrations and how I felt … then I looked at the frustrations I have with John and how I feel when I am frustrated with the situation.
We have done this work for over 25 years … and by that I mean working on our relationship as well as having used these tools with our clients.

Today, I am speaking as a participant of the exercise.

As I was thinking about John, I have very few frustrations that stop me in my tracks any more. I have come to realize that most things that frustrate me are insignificant and I have a choice about how I react.

This was not always the case!!!

Just before we did the exercise, it was storming and I was walking into a room and John said it had rained in and the carpet was wet. I looked and the window was still open … I said, “Did you not close the window?” … feeling frustrated. A quick back and forth and I realized he had closed it from being wide open and he just wanted some air … but it was still raining in. So, as I shut it, wiped up the windowsill and then put a towel down, I realized it is just water and no big deal.
IN THE PAST, I would have concluded he did this on purpose to get me going! He doesn’t care about the carpet! And on and on!!! And then he would get the cold shoulder and have no idea why! Smack dab in a Power Struggle over a little water!

I have learned that when I overreact to a situation it usually has nothing to do with the present but with a past frustration that needs to be healed. We have talked about many of these over the years using the Intentional Dialogue process and so I am happy to say it has been working for us!

Next week: Truth #2 Incompatibility is Grounds for Marriage

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