Building Your Spiritual Home

Marriage as a Change Agent

Probably the most influential person in my life, since age 3 anyway, has been my wife. Like her, I married for all the right reasons: she was nothing like my mother. She was full of life and energy, vibrant, sexy, open about her feelings, and great with anger. A real teacher. And I was perfect for her: nothing like her unavailable, sadistic father. It took us about 3 weeks after marriage to realize how wrong we were. I became a dead ringer for her dad- distancing just like him, disapproving, mean. And she was a dead ringer for my mom- self involved, depriving, fragile. Such is marriage.

So we ranted and went at each other through our early years, defying the best of couple therapists who, never the less, kept us together somehow. From Linda I learned that I had feelings, especially anger, and struggled to learn to express and deal with them. I wasn’t wooden inside after all, more like molten lava. In the world of emotions we were the superbowl. Linda was nothing if not authentic, and always pushed for resolution, even when resolution was impossible. It took her twenty five years to accept that sometimes we had to go to sleep angry, as there was no chance of ever working it through at 4 AM. I believe that any “well behaved” wife would never have pushed so hard and so persistently. But that’s exactly what I needed.
My poem to her after the dust cleared a bit on our 14th anniversary:

Snuggled in the gray haze
That bathed my life with soft comfort
There were no dragons
No jagged rocks;
That I could see.

Gray washed away
night and day
work and play
gull and jay
sad and gay
in its soft comfort.

Then, in you came
Crying of dragons and butterflies,
Singing of suns and storms,
Purring and screeching
and turning the air ELECTRIC.

Your lightening gaze
Blazed through the mist
Found crags and crevices,
And made a mapmaker of my soul.

Today, that soft fog lines only
the distant mountains.
In my jungles,
On my sun drenched beaches,
The air is clear.

There are so many ways in which this marriage of 45 years has changed me and made me who I am today. Linda’s insistence on intimacy, honesty broke down my commitment to niceness at all cost, and blasted me open.

Some years ago, Linda and I were asked to speak at a local Divinity School on the topic, “Power in Relationship, Is Marriage a Level Playing Field?”. Typically, we accepted, then went our separate ways to think and plan. When we finally shared our visions, they were strikingly different. My marriage was to a woman whose emotions kept me subjugated. I lived on tip toes trying to avoid another outburst of rage or depression. There was no room for my wishes or feelings.

Linda lived with a bully. She was in awe of my knowledge of manners, menus, how to create a functional family. She had to do everything the way I wanted to, as I, her lord and master, had superior knowledge. She was my former slave, now turned rebellious. Our talk was sensational. It was also an eye-opener for us both, and led to lots of surprisingly open discussions between us.

For our 35th wedding anniversary, I wrote Linda the following:

Two Old Shoes
We’ve been stretched,
stretched as far as we can stretch.
In fact, we’re both bulging now.
Worn, tired, soft to the touch, comfortable.

We’re a good fit now, our contours molded,
Soft to the touch
And we march well together.
Sometimes adventure,
But mostly down our familiar, well trodden paths.

If married:

1) What attracted you to your spouse?
2) What behaviors has your spouse “taught” you?
3) What uncomfortable feelings has your marriage brought up for you?
4) Have you loosened or tightened in response?
5) What have you “taught” your spouse?

If not Married:

1) What qualities do you need from a spouse to help you grow?
2) What would you hope to offer in return?

 

CHAPTERS

GET A LIFE
THE JOY OF A DEPRESSED MOTHER
OPENING MANY DOORS
GETTING COMFORTABLE WITH ANGER
THE PATH OF MEDITATION
GIVING UP CONTROL
MARRIAGE AS A CHANGE AGENT
STRUCTURES THAT SUPPORT LIFE
VERMONT AND NATURE
TO HELL WITH DIGNITY
COMPANIONS ON THE ROAD
DOUBLE VISION
WHAT SHAPES LIFE
DISMANTLING SELF
TOLERATING GOD’S LOVE
MAKING FRIENDS WITH GOD

 

 

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