“The Glue That Holds A Marriage Together”. By Henry Regehr
Yes, of course, it’s love.
But the honeymoon lasts until it suddenly ends, and every couple can remember the occasion that signaled the dawn of a new era, post honeymoon, and the beginning of a minor or major scuffle for control. It could be at any significant point in the relationship: the engagement, the wedding, the first shopping trip, the arrival of the first baby….
Charlie and Debbie were madly in love. The engagement time had gone swimmingly, the wedding was memorable, but half–way through the honeymoon in an idyllic dream place, it turned into a nightmare when the unstated issues bubbled to the surface.
Like everyone else, Charlie and Debbie entered the relationship with an agenda hidden even to themselves. Charlie dreamed of having all his needs for closeness, warmth and intimacy responded to with enthusiasm and on demand. Debbie expected to have her needs for safety and security met with a strong, reliable performance and on demand as well. The many photographs taken at the wedding and at the reception showed the couple posing in demonstrations of affection, love, and willingness to respond to each other with constant smiles and endless joy.
Halfway through the honeymoon, had they invited their photographer, the photos would have shown episodes of imagined hurt, imagined rejection, insults and lots of tears. The power struggle, the expressed demands to have their unspoken needs met, had suddenly been engaged. The photographer would have had Debbie and Charlie pose themselves with demanding gestures, pulling in opposite directions and disappointment. And more tears.
The two photo albums, the first of the ideal relationship, the second the one with the previously unspoken needs, the more realistic one, the relationship that exposed the hidden needs would see them in remarkably different poses. The family and friends, shown the two albums, would have been alarmed at the second group of photos. They would have been as surprized as Debbie and Charlie were themselves, that the perfect images of the wedding were an expression of the love that bonded them together, while the second album would have exposed the unconscious issues that had been infused in both while growing up. This was this glue that would keep them involved in the complex dance for the next years. If the love that drew them to each other at the beginning was stronger than the tensions of the power struggle, they would be together to celebrate, with their friends and families, their later anniversaries. They would be able to negotiate a new way of responding to each other in a warm, settled way, where both gave and received, not out of hunger, but out of a mature, healthy place to their own and the other’s needs.
Charlie and Debbie discovered, over the years, that the petty disagreements and arguments that led to major eruptions were opportunities to understand their own hunger and the needs of the other. They discovered that the dream of having their partner respond to their unresolved childhood needs was unrealistic and they developed insights into these needs and outgrew them. They discovered that, within the love for each other, they could untangle themselves from the unresolved issues with their past and see each other as mature, loving partners.
Debbie and Charlie celebrated their fortieth anniversary at the family cottage. Their four children were present. Their second son brought his second wife, having gone through a painful divorce. Their daughter came with her same-sex partner. A son and a daughter visited with their partners. Nine grandchildren brought vigour and liveliness to the occasion.
They were all part of a normal family.