Q. Things are not easy in my marriage. My friend Louise keeps pushing me to stand up to my husband whom she calls the ‘cactus’ and leave him….I’m very confused. What should I do?
A. I do not know your story. I cannot make comments about who you are, your life and the decisions you have made or will make. If I did I would be no different from those telling you what to do. I do not know what is best for you or the people who make up your life….how could I? I can only share with you what I think might be useful to think about from a general perspective before one makes life altering decisions, in this case marriage. So these are some observations.
Two things though….Firstly consider the observations as if you were a student keen to learn as much as you can about a subject that is deeply important and meaningful to you with a critically open mind. Secondly if you experience any reaction in respect of these observations make a note of what’s happening in your mind, your body and heart, anywhere there is an evident reaction of any kind.
- When some people give advice especially advice that is likely to involve decisions that could dramatically alter or define your life and perhaps the lives of those in your life one should be extremely cautious of their best intentions. Most people who give emotionally loaded partisan instructions, one way or the other, are more often than not talking about themselves, their issues and their lives. You can take it as a rule of thumb that they are not talking about you and are not talking about what might be best for you…even though they would dispute this indignantly and vehemently.
- Marriage between two people is a complicated relationship. It is a relationship that has many pressures, hopes and expectations heaped upon it….sometimes this heaping is too much for the relationship to carry. Sometimes the marriage relationship is confused with something else, conflated with other things that honestly should not be part of the marriage relationship. For example, I am going to get married so I can have kids and push them to do the things I couldn’t do. I am going to get married so that I can show my father that I don’t need him. Of course these intentions are inevitably out of awareness.
- Leaving home…sometimes people who have not ‘left home’ simply move in to a marriage as a substitute for the ‘home’ they haven’t left with all the issues that remain in the ‘old and new home’.
- Marriage is the point where the partners can begin to know each other. We often do not know each other even though we have embarked on a lifelong partnership thinking we know each other. The question thus becomes when we see the other for who they actually are is that a signal to leave or a signal to really build a mature loving relationship?
- Spouses sometimes expect their partners to give them things that are really not the job of spouses. To feel better about themselves, to look after them and shield them from difficulty. The best thing spouses can do for each other is to manifest and try to fulfil their potential by their own efforts in the world and take responsibility to deal with those things that prevent that from happening. By the way this manifestation is not necessarily about work or the job you do. This means however that we need to know who we are and what we should be doing.
By no means exhaustive the matters associated with these observations pre-suppose an awareness knowledge and acceptance of self as well as honest learning about what life is really like. Where do we get this awareness and knowledge? Where do we start to stand back from illusions, see things as they actually are, see ourselves clearly and learn what we can do being ourselves in the world.?
I support pre-marital counselling & training, individually and as a couple…but really that’s often too little too late.
I believe that it is the job of the school to actively and structurally work to help kids know who they are from an early age. It is also the job of the school to help kids understand a truer reality of life and the world. In this way kids get more used to knowing who they are and can face the demands of life with a clearer knowledge, greater preparedness and resilience to face the daunting tasks on their life path.
Finally I am amazed that despite all the demands heaped on marriage, despite the illusory ideas we have about marriage people come to see and accept those things that are not real, that don’t belong in marriage and despite this continue their commitment to their partners and their marriage hopefully in new and healthier ways.