Every so often, grim statistics about the demise of marriage hits the news. (One recently stated 50% of marriages end in divorce.) Somewhere along the way, the idea to nip incompatibility in the bud, before the wedding, was born and premarital counseling became almost a prerequisite. Personally, I don’t think it’s beneficial or realistic for two people to sit down during that blissful time, full of love and planning to spend their lives together, and attempt to communicate honesty. Possibly it’s fear of a deal-breaker. Whatever it is, they don’t call it the honeymoon stage for nothing.
Love takes us down a long road, initially it’s foggy with the intensity of love. The fog is blinding, especially to those glaring signs along the road that should be read before the wedding, but are often ignored. It’s only when the fog clears and and the intensity dissipates, as it will, and relationships are challenged by day to day life or extraordinary circumstances, as they surely are, that we discover whether true compatibility exists. How many couples have emerged from that fog and asked themselves, “Who the hell is this person lying next to me?”
When my then-fiancé insisted on a Catholic wedding, we were mandated to have pre-marital counseling. I remember one revelation, my fiancé stated he did not believe in any type of therapy, referring to it as hocus-pocus, one of many clues I should have taken note of. I was in that fog, very much in love and full of denial about his faults, or mine for that matter. (Another clue, marrying someone who’s nickname is “Bad,” by everyone who knows him. It was not a name of intention as it turned out, but one in fact.)
I have always believed in psychotherapy and believe there is no difference in taking care of one’s mental health, any more than going to any type of physician to heal our bodies. When my fiancé said he didn’t believe in talking about his feelings with strangers, Father Pete (yes, that was his name), emphasized the importance of staying on top of communication issues that were sure to arise during marriage. What became apparent during our marriage was that my husband was not only unwilling to talk to a professional about his feelings, his thoughts, or his concerns, he had no ability to speak honestly to me about what he felt either; I was out of the loop.
As it turned out, my spouse had no real emotion because he had no real identity. His opinions were those of whomever was influencing him at that particular time, such as whose oxygen he was sharing. He was a chameleon that, at any given moment, took on whatever persona that he felt would make him fit in, be liked, be admired or respected, no matter how inauthentic it was. I had some positive influence on him, but it wasn’t more special or meaningful than his drinking buddies, his bosses, or the various women he consorted with through the years, (such as the current one dragging him around by his fragile ego, if not some lower parts). He is a person full of insecurity and hyper-sensitive about any perceived slight, with the emotional IQ of a six-year-old.
Don’t get me wrong, I was never guiltless in adding to the long list of reasons he and I weren’t a good match. In hindsight, I brought a level of co-dependency that was ridiculous and I gave him license to manipulate me over and over again. In spite of thinking that I was a strong, independent person who had worked through a lot of problems relating to my own highly dysfunctional childhood, I hadn’t and consequently, those issues still haunt me to this day. Closure is a fallacy, but it is possible to work through those experiences in a process that helps us navigate life in a more healthy, self-protective manner. Work is the descriptive word here; it’s hard and often painful. I didn’t complete that process when I was young and it’s clouded my reasoning in all of my relationships with men, most especially with my husband. (I might as well have walked around with a big WELCOME stamped across my face, such was my lack of self-esteem and my acceptance of being nothing more than a door-mat to his bottomless lying.)
Marriage is tough without the added unresolved issues that couples bring independently into their relationship. Effective pre-marital counseling should entail using some means, maybe a medically safe drug, that for a few hours would block all those pheromones, that lovely-dovey mindset of a newly committed couple, giving them the ability to actually sit down with each other and talk in brutal if not transparent detail about everything that’s occurred in their separate lives: the good, the bad, and all the stark ugly stuff. The past, as they say, is always a predictor of the future.
My husband’s lack of introspection not only made him less communicative about his feelings, he didn’t want to know or understand my feelings about anything either. The only way he could deal with life was under the influence of drugs, booze, or random sexual relationships, all of it giving him, for at least a short period of time, an altered reality in which he could escape. He didn’t hide this from me before we married and he didn’t after, but he never admitted any truth relating to his behavior, and for a long time, I ignored what I didn’t want to believe about the person I loved.
I dealt with the turmoil of my life, attempting to always silence the bullshit meter going off in my head, by suppressing my feelings with food. Within two months after ending my marriage, I had lost 50 pounds without trying. It was as though I purged every emotion that had weighed me down for years. Since then, I haven’t only shed physical weight, but emotional heaviness as well. It’s a process though, and very painful.
Having to admit the truth to ourselves about our incompatibility with our spouses is often the catalyst for the strong feelings of dislike we can feel towards each other in the end. I think the anger is as much directed at ourselves though, as towards the other person, as we admit we’ve wasted years being in a relationship that was probably doomed from the start.
I now accept he was who he revealed himself to be from the start. He spoon fed me deception from day one so I can’t blame him for lapping it up. I never attempted to fix him, but I spent my entire marriage trying to fix myself in ways to compensate for the enormous lacking in our relationship. I finally had one therapist tell me that the person who needed to be in that office with me, to deal with the issues I was describing, wasn’t present figuratively or otherwise, so in essence, it was useless to move forward without him.
Marriage is a crap-shot and when you lose, you lose big. The baggage in my marriage got too cumbersome to carry, so I dumped it. I should have packed lighter years ago.
How can you facilitate good communication in your marriage?
- Communication 101: The Art Of The Family Meeting
- 5 Things I Learned About Communicating With Others
- Don’t Fall Victim to Love Through Rose Colored Glasses
- Marriage: A Complicated And Evolving Institution