Monday, August 3, 2009

Those Aren't Fighting Words, Dear

This was written by Laura A. Munson and published 7/31/2009 in the NY Times.

It is a fascinating account of hearing a spouse say "I don't love you anymore" after 20 years of marriage. The results, however, are not what you'd think.

Munson's insight to what was happening in her marriage isn't the cure all for troubled relationships, but it is a reaction full of grace and understanding, and an incredible example of patience without becoming a victim.

The line that strikes me: "What can we do to give you the distance you need, without hurting the family?” This is a powerful question. It suggests a working through and a road forward that keeps a level of responsibility and honor even in the midst of potentially going separate ways. Truly a case of "if you love someone, set them free" without absolving them from all responsibility and connection.

Munson's reactions show an adult maturity that is often lost in our modern world. It's ironic that this is true. This just might be the beyond that was hoped for as we moved from the ethics of the Victorian age, as well as the 50s, where you simply put up with things as "your lot in life." The usual modern response in relationships is a lack of responsibility and fidelity: "Don't like your situation? Just leave: you're the only one that matters." That's not much better than the destructive pattern of remaining the victim.

Again, Munson was not being abused by her spouse (although his words and actions certainly caused her emotional pain). Munson chooses to walk through this with her husband without doing it for him, or overcompensating for him. She gives space, but makes it clear that he not only has a place with his family, but that she believes his place is WITH his family, and that she believes he still belongs. Ultimately, he must make a choice, but it comes not in the midst of battle, but in a place of thoughtful reflection and exploration that does not destroy the family.

1 comment: said...

Wish this could have worked in my case. Instead, I got the "I love you, but I'm not IN love with you" speech from my wife years ago. It turns out she had fallen in love with someone else online. Nobody else mattered to her... not me... not our newborn... only this new lover of hers. She pursued this other person until the bitter end.

Perhaps the suggestions in this article only work if your spouse is just having a mid-life crisis and hasn't just fallen in love with another piece of meat.