She said, “You want me to do what!”
Finding the right person is hard enough. But finding someone you want to be with long term seems to be unlikely–at least for 50% of the married people in this country.
When I first began my practice as a psychologist in the 1970s, I worked with lots of couples whose complaints centered around demands. He says, “I want you to (fill in the word)” and she says, “You want me to do what!” His sin is he doesn’t know how to ask; her sin is she doesn’t know how to listen.
I recognized early on that communication was a major complaint. But not really. “Communication” was just a code word. People used it to avoid talking about what was really bothering them. And what was bothering them was a painful truth: they couldn’t deal with the lack of intimacy, lack of trust, absence of passion, and the simply overwhelming impression that they weren’t welcome into the life/mind/soul of his or her partner.
In order to get beyond the “Communication” problem, I developed various exercises which revealed the unspoken but fairly obvious truth the couple were complaining about:
“Make a sandwich,” I said.
“Let me understand, Doctor,” she responded, “you want me to make a sandwich?”
“Yes, I would like you to make a husband sandwich. Just imagine that you are placing him between two pieces of bread and taking a bite. See how it tastes, experience the texture, and experience the chewing.”
The confused woman did exactly as I asked. After a few minutes, she screwed up her face.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“This taste awful. It’s stringy and tough and I just can’t swallow it.” “How does this relate to your marriage,” I asked.
“It’s the same way with my husband. He’s really hard to take. I just want to spit him and the marriage out!”
I next heard from the woman about three months later. “I’d like to make an appointment,” she told my secretary. “I think I have a lot to talk about.”
Over the course of the next several months, we worked on several issues related to disappointment, anger, grieving, and “shame.” The hard work of course had already been completed: she had made the decision to leave her husband. (In fairness, I should point out that her husband also “made a sandwich” and found her to be “fatty” and “not at all tasty.” The decision to part was amicably accepted by both parties.)
To make wise decisions, suggested Carlos Castenada, one of our more colorful anthropologists, we need only look to the “path with a heart.” Castenada’s advice rings true, but decisions about love relationships are difficult. Learning which path is the “path with a heart” is troublesome for most of us, and seemingly impossible for many of us.
For more information about the, check out some of the “thermometers” I’ve created to measure passion, commitment, intimacy, motivation, and the emotional climate of your relationship with your partner. You’ll find them in Chapters 4, 5, 6,7, and 8 in “Living, Loving, Letting Go” regarded by some readers as “a master’s course in relationships”. The book is available at Henschelhaus.com, Amazon.com, and at other favorite book sellers.
Check in next week for more news about repairing a broken heart. Hope to see you then.