Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Most Important Conversation for Lovers

Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same. –Emily Bronte

“But when we were dating, we agreed on all the major issues, theologically, philosophically, socially…” His voice disappeared into an abyss of agony. But I had known him long enough, and well enough, to know what he was thinking. “We dotted all the i’s, crossed all the t’s. When we were first married, intellectually, we were on the same page. How is it that we woke up and found that we were not even in the same book?”

“He’s a wonderful man, a loving father… a really great guy. Yet, other than our children, we have almost nothing in common. He wants to sit around and watch TV every night. I want to play games that will stimulate us intellectually, go to a museum, or talk about things that matter. Well, matter to me, anyway. Painful thing is that nothing much matters to him.”

What is tormenting these couples is the lack of mutuality where it matters most: a shared sense of life. What I mean by a sense of life is how we experience and approach our existence in the world, which comes from our core beliefs and attitudes regarding life and our selves. *
A man who experiences life as a couch to lounge on while waiting for death, or as a competition to see who can make the most money before the game is called, does not have the same sense of life as a woman who experiences her existence as a quest for meaningfulness and significance. If these two people marry, there is very little hope for a deep and intimate relationship. Not unless one of them is miraculously transformed, anyway.
If she approaches life with faith, hope, and love, and he with fear, hopelessness, and cynicism, then there will be no mutuality at the very heart of the relationship. It doesn’t matter that they grew up together in the same church, espouse the same beliefs, and vote along the same party lines. The disparity between their respective senses of life will be a barrier to an authentic and abiding emotional connection.
What this man and woman was saying was, “I feel totally invisible.” The agony they each were describing is that of not being loved and appreciated for who they are. O, he may admire this or that attribute but, as her sense of life is the opposite of his, he doesn’t see the essence of her identity. Consequently, she is not being loved for who-she-is … and she knows it. And then there is the seemingly insurmountable barrier of “appreciating” a sense of life that she experiences as being so utterly alien to her own.
When facing serious conflicts, so many couples argue over work, or friendships, or children, or politics, or spiritual matters, or what to do on holidays, with few or no resolutions that move the relationship forward. The reason for this is that the real issue is far deeper, and far scarier: the challenge is at the level of their sense of life. Here is where he must be honest with his mate and his self. Here is the arena where she must seek to make herself visible: respectfully, lovingly, and boldly.

* "A sense of life is the emotional form in which we experience our deepest view of existence and our relationship to existence. It is, in effect, the emotional corollary of a metaphysics--of a personal metaphysics, one might say--reflecting the subconsciously held sum of our broadest and deepest attitudes and conclusions concerning the world, life, and ourselves." Nathaniel Branden, The Psychology of Romantic Love

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2013

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