Walking on Fresh Grass
We walked through a lush rainforest at the foot of Mount Warning. If you stand at the summit of this natural wonder at daybreak, you will be the first in mainland Australia to see the sun cast its long gilded beams over our desolate continent.
I’m not that fond of mornings, so it was 11am before we commenced our ascent.
We didn’t carry much on our journey, but still the rain's heaviness made us feel each dragging footstep. Our backpacks were full of unspoken words, unfulfilled longings and confusion.
Rainforests are filled with so much depth and beauty, but they also harbour secrets. Vines creep and entwine themselves around trunks and branches, concealing the trees beneath. They made me think about an issue of our relationship, sitting below this weekend's disagreements.
We had been niggling each other for days. This was a warning. A deeper problem festered underneath.
Problems come from many, many sources: parenting, extended family, finances, sex, differing cultures, your personalities, your values and priorities, political differences, society, drug and alcohol issues, work, friends, ill health, misfortune, broken dreams, unrealistic expectations, technology, being too busy, and the weather, just to name a few.
Notice that “the relationship” is not on this list.
When you identify the real problem, you capture it, hold it captive, and then you can begin to work on it.
I couldn’t stand it anymore so I ventured,
“We need to talk about this.”
We both knew what “this” was.
“Oh you mean how I always wear my t-shirts inside out and it drives you crazy?” he grinned.
I laughed. It eased the tension and helped my heart speak more gently.
I took a deep breath, took his hand and we began a long, deep conversation that crept its way around many corners and steep learning curves. We talked about how the attacking and defending of seemingly insignificant issues was a symptom of a bigger tension that had been smouldering underneath. We had both felt that our relationship was the problem but realised that the problem was somewhere else. It was a silent peace-stealer that had worn us down for months now.
The problem (if you want to know) is that we both felt stuck. Stuck with a house that wouldn’t sell, stuck with missing our boys who had just left home, stuck with work overload and stuck with unfulfilled dreams of wanting to do meaningful work at a university full of red tape.
And we were taking our frustrations out on each other.
But … we finally identified the real problem.
When you know and define the problem, you know what to work on.
In this and nearly every case where blame, shame, and guilt are plastered onto a relationship:
The relationship isn’t the problem, the problem is the problem.
I know I’ve said this before, but it’s what we come back to again and again.
It is so liberating. For us.
On the way back down the mountain, I noticed a tree that had uncovered, beautiful slender roots for the world to observe and enjoy. It was growing beside a stream and the longest arm had stretched its delicate fingers into the water.
I realised that although I was mentally and emotionally drained from our talk, I felt much lighter. We had uncovered the problem underneath. We could now work on a way out of this tangled undergrowth.
Welcome to our blog. Each blog contains a little story of our journey and an insight drawn from Christian's 18 years of clinical experience as a psychiatrist. The central ideas are in bold. We post every fortnight and would love to hear your comments. Looking forward to travelling with you in this amazing journey called life.