The Crucible of Marriage

I have said frequently, “What you see is what you are.” Karl Jung explored the phenomena of projection, contending that we often err in blaming other people or outside forces for what is going on within our own hearts.

I’m going to share with you here a simple exercise to test this premise. It will work…if you are honest with yourself. Take someone who is very important to you, a significant other or spouse and someone who you have been involved with for a long time. Then make a list of their flaws and eccentricities which anger you, which really grind your gears. Write them down and look over them carefully. THERE IS A LIST OF ISSUES IN YOUR OWN HEART THAT YOU NEED TO ADDRESS!

We get involved with and/or marry our complement, that person which completes us. They embody all those things that we desire; but, once the relationship deepens, the dark side begins to arise and conflict ensues. In our modern world, this problem is easily solved as we can divorce and, as mother once put it, “drive our ducks to another market.” But, more than likely we will end up with someone else who embodies the same qualities.

Marriage is a crucible, a container in which spiritual issues can be addressed. They will never be all addressed and the attempt to address them all is a problem in itself. But open and honest communication will put some of them on the table and allow some of them to be addressed. If the couple are then dedicated to the relationship, they will have the wherewithal to go about the daily routine of “hearth and home”, making their life together work while the conflict is addressed piecemeal, from time to time, but not compulsively!. There will be a baseline respect which will characterize the conflict and neither party will succumb to the temptation to think, “I am right! He/she is wrong!” Neither party will resort to violence, emotional or physical.

Here is a poem by Wendell Berry about the conflicted nature of marriage, entitled “Marriage”

How hard it is for me, who live
in the excitement of women
and have the desire for them
in my mouth like salt. Yet
you have taken me and quieted me.
You have been such light to me
that other women have been
your shadows. You come near me
with the nearness of sleep.
And yet I am not quiet.
It is to be broken. It is to be
torn open. It is not to be
reached and come to rest in
ever. I turn against you,
I break from you, I turn to you.
We hurt, and are hurt,
and have each other for healing.
It is healing. It is never whole.

 

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