A recent article on the Daily Plate of Crazy discussed the age-old question, does marriage bring out our “worst” selves? Do we treat our spouse as our own personal emotional punching bag? Our psychological safety net?
In my opinion, we do.
We go into marriage hoping that love will pull us through, that we’ll defy all odds and make it through the tough times to the golden years, where we’ll hold hands as we walk into the sunset. The truth of the matter is we treat our spouses like we once treated our parents during our ever tumultuous teen years. Mutual respect and admiration go out the window as we give our spouses the worst of us.
Why is this? Do we fight and rebel against our spouses as a way to get back for all the arguments and slights, real and perceived? Do we secretly hold on to our emotional scorecards and tick off who said what to whom and when? Are we so narcissistic in our lives that working toward a greater good (a happy relationship) becomes secondary to what we think is our God-given right to do whatever we want as long as it makes us happy in the end?
Unfortunately the ends will never justify the means.
I believe that our worst selves come out for a baser reason. Just like children who rebel against parents, we rebel against our spouses for a simple reason: because we carry the belief that no matter how badly we act out, our spouses, like our parents, will always love us.
The courthouse annals are filled with many divorce petitions showing that this thinking is flawed. Spouses have breaking points, no matter how saintly and forgiving we think they might be. And when both partners are rebelling against each other all out war, even a silent one, wages on.
The key is recognizing the dance.
We will always have a part of us that rebels. It doesn’t matter if it’s due to frustration, anger, fear, or pain. Those pieces will live inside of each of us and no amount of therapy, isolation, or denial will rid us of these forces. More importantly, the realization that our spouses are not our parents, they do not love us unconditionally, is something we have to recognize for our marriage’s survival.
Treat your spouse, not as a safety net, but as a fragile delicate spun glass figurine that can shatter at any moment. For once they break, the pieces can cut deeply.