What If My Spouse Acted Like Me?
What kind of world would it be if everyone were just like me? What kind of marriage would it be if your partner treated you like you treated him?*
That’s a pretty scary thought. I’m finding that life ebbs and flows and you are not supposed to married for 7.2 years. Fifty or sixty or even more years is more like it. Sometimes in your marriage and personal life you are on target; sometimes you miss by a mile. Hopefully you both take turns and neither of you is totally off all the time. Love is patient, right? Sometimes you rise to the occasion. Sometimes your spouse does. Sometimes you both do. That would be a marriage that worked.
The temptation is if there is one partner who is immature or selfish or way too busy or whatever, for both partners to gravitate to the lowest common denominator:
-You going to treat me with disdain? Watch me treat you with even more disdain.
-You not going to talk to me? Watch me ignore you even more. You not going to help clean the house? Watch me go on strike.
-You gonna spend money foolishly? Watch me outdo you.
-You aren’t going to touch me or initiate sex? Ha! I can be as indifferent as you! Watch me ignore you and then blame you because you ignored me “all those years.”
There is no redemption in this family. We take offense at everything and bear grudges like an eternal paint that won’t come off. And then we’re even proud of it.
I refuse to be proactive about anything, except my own protection, my own little world. And then when my loving feelings go away (as they will. Loving feeling are like a fire you must add wood to. The wood you add is not how your spouse treats you, but how you treat him. Feelings come from your investments. Quit investing and watch those loving feeling returns disappear.) I can blame you(!) for how I feel. You see I’ve got this all worked out. I have a lot of other untruths I base my life upon as well.
I’ve seen an amazing thing. As long as at least one partner has a forgiving, giving, mature spirit, that forgiving, giving, mature spirit can filter down to the other partner. Can? Will? Sometimes. A lot of times? Not always. Nevertheless, wouldn’t it be pretty Okay to do the right thing? At least you can look yourself in the mirror then. At least you won’t go walking around feeling like a victim, blaming your partner and everyone else for your problems. Maybe you’d grow up a tad. Wouldn’t that all be worth it?
Too often what I see in my office is both partners lower themselves to the partner with the most immature behavior. It’s no wonder they implode.
Did you know if you don’t learn to be mature in your first marriage, you won’t have that as a skill set going into your second? You learn perseverance and fortitude by going through tough times and rising to the occasion. You learn immaturity by giving up and seeking your own happiness and running from your problems. You teach your kids by your example. What an example you’ll be. You tired? Weary? Just give up!!
Just like that Captain of the cruise ship in Italy. Look how everyone respects him for doing what his feelings told him to do instead of doing the right thing. Forget the frickin’ cruise ship (marriage), I gotta protect my butt!
I think our marriages could use a few people with a little resolve, a little thinking of us, instead of thinking of “me.”
Go ahead. I dare you: Imagine what your family would be like if everyone in your family treated you like you treat them.
So, ah, whatayagot?
*Chapter 9, No More Mondays
Dr. Bing Wall is a therapist specializing in marriage and relationships and issues facing single adults with a practice in Ames and Urbandale, Iowa. To set up a time to see Dr. Wall click here or call 888-233-8473. For more information about Dr. Wall click here.