If I’m being honest, and I am honest to a fault, my marriage is hard right now. Jim and I got married ten years ago and enjoyed an extended five-year honeymoon. Utter, unrealistic bliss! My daughters found us sickening! I think God knew we’d need a season of bliss to look back on because He knows our wounds and they are deep. Deep wounds make it easy to blame and give up. DON’T.
My therapist says that our marriage is providential, meaning that God meant for Jim and me to be together. He is my perfect storm and I am his. He is my iron sharpening iron. I freaking hate it. I want my bliss back!!!
At year six Jim and I decided to go on TV. If ever you wanted an experience of trauma, try reality TV. Our wounds and the cracks in our character and the limits in our skill set came roaring to the forefront. Many new Boot Camp drills resulted from our many fights-turned-formulas but NOW, this current season… is a beast.
The truth is, we are going deeper. We are dealing with many unresolved childhood wounds through each other and according to Dr. Harville Hendrix this is one of the secret purposes of love – healing from childhood wounds. Jim is pushing the hell out of my buttons and I am pushing his. This is one of the many benefits of marriage. It is the crucible where we throw all of our raw selves into the fire so that the dross of unhealth can come to the surface to be skimmed off and gotten rid of, or not. Unfortunately, many marriages fall apart during this phase and I can certainly understand why. It sucks.
According to Dr. Harville Hendrix, we are drawn to our “unfinished business.” A mysterious admixture of our happiest childhood feelings, our unmet childhood needs, the LOST SELF – the self we lost to socialization, the FALSE SELF – created to compensate for the LOST SELF, and the DISOWNED SELF – the parts of the false self that we hate. Whew! So in a nutshell, you take the good, the bad, the hidden and the fake, create a human being and marry it.
Dr. Harville Hendrix calls this our “imago”- the blend of all of the people who influenced you as a child. Make no mistake, it is primitive, it is young, and it will hurt you in exactly the place you need to be hurt to remind you of where your work is. If we are wise, we will embrace this lifelong journey because, well, it will not let you ignore it. Sure, you can divorce this jerk and look for a better imago, but the imago remains the same. Again, if we are wise, we understand that we will never reach the “stick me with a fork, I’m done” state. Jim has said, “can we just stop growing?!?” Nope. No we can’t. We’re like sharks. We can rest but if we stop moving we die. Sorry. And…be encouraged, the journey is worth it! Here are the stages of the journey:
Stage 1: Romantic love – A form of mental illness where we filter out anything but the most exquisite perfectness. Here is where we believe we have finally found our soul mate who will make us whole! “Jim! You complete me!” It does not last long. The sad thing is that many people get stuck thinking that THIS IS THE TRUEST LOVE! Nope, it is the lie to get you hooked…in a good way.
Stage 2: The Power Struggle – Although it may not seem like it, this stage is very similar to the first stage. Both stages seek relationship for the purpose of uniting with a gratifying object and then having our needs fulfilled. We believe that our mate COULD MAKE ME WHOLE but is withholding from me. This is death. The dream (or the lie) dies.
Stage 3: Transformation – At this stage, our love is steeped in a willful, conscious desire to heal and serve each other. This stage is often called agape, we direct our energies toward our partners in a selfless way. But that’s not all!
Stage 4: Reality Love – Here we view each other clearly and without prejudice. This is the truth. You are not the “good parent”, not the enemy; you are my friend. Our unconscious blinders have been removed and we are free to give without any demand of reciprocation but plenty of hope for returned love. We are complete and whole and the energy of love and respect flows freely.
In this final stage, couples reach out instead of in. Their ability to love and heal expands and looks at the great need of the world and is inspired to give. This stage lacks the crazy infatuation of romantic love but is replaced with an intensity of joy and passion that are beyond anything that the other stages could ever produce. As my daughter, Ilsa Levine says, “Mom! It’s like the oneness of marriage finally happens and giving to your mate actually feels like you’re loving yourself!” Well said, Ilsa, well said.
IT IS WORTH IT
I am hanging on for dear life as Jim and I navigate the crazy waters of the power struggle and transformation while reaching out to the vast need of hurting marriages. I know it is worth it. I know, you Jim, are worth it.