I knew a couple who had been married for over forty years. They had a comfortable home, no real financial worries, and their children were all married. But they had baggage. Their “shop” was severely cluttered with boxes of issues. Some of the boxes of deep hurts were buried and marked with the labels “DO NOT TOUCH – CAUSES TOO MUCH PAIN”. They lived at opposite ends of the shop, careful not to disturb the status quo. They would share some meals together, the bills got paid, the clothes got washed and the day to day things got done because they had learned to co-exist in a standing truce. They shared their house; how sad they didn’t share their lives.
We can all visualize that perfect “10” relationship; we’d call them soul mates, best friends and lovers. There is a giddy euphoria and joy in their lives and they just love being together. For some of us that perfect “10” is a lofty ideal, something you read about in fairy tales. It’s not reality, not for us, not now, maybe never. And for others, it seems we’re almost there; no major problems have cluttered our lives and we experience the joy of being together almost every day.
Several years ago I reflected on the state of my relationship with Darleen. I knew on a scale of 1 – 10 our relationship was at maybe a three. Oh, there were good days that we could get to a 5 or 6, but those were few and far between. The “Oasis Days” is what I called them. When you live day to day in a desert, being in the oasis is like being able to breathe and get a fresh drink of water. The desert years were awful. I tried to deal with the pain by telling myself the lie that “I just don’t care”. I tried to cope using apathy.
Being a “passive-aggressive” temperament, I never really faced the baggage and issues that we had in “our shop”. I would either ignore the issues, or I would attack them. Ignoring them was simply immature stupidity, and attacking them alienated Darleen and made her withdraw further into a protective shell. Since I didn’t face the issues, I stayed in the desert. Here’s a bit of Common Sense: If you ignore the problems, they don’t go away and if you attack the problems and your spouse, you just create a whole new layer of problems. Think: Personal Growth.
After seriously reflecting on the couple who settled into a “coexisting marriage”, I knew I was tired of being in the desert and I did not believe the lie that I just don’t care. I woke up to the pressing reality that at my core I didn’t want to settle for a lifeless loveless marriage. I did care and I deeply and truly loved my wife. I wanted that soul mate relationship. I wanted to live in that “Oasis”.
Choices: We all have choices. My next step was to face the issues and begin the work of dealing with them. And that took personal growth on my part and understanding the need for me to love Darleen through selfless serving.