Walking on Fresh Grass
On the trail in front of us a two metre python slithered its majestic scales across our path, stealing our way forward. Recent soaring temperatures in Australia have burnt the grass, dust-bagged the soil and awakened the hibernating snakes.
We were bushwalking on our well-loved track populated with soaring gumtrees, scarlet bougainvillea and soulful whip-birds. A place near our home where we often go to de-stress and talk out our longings, failings and triumphs. On the simple walk, danger was lurking to steal our peace. Our reverie was halted abruptly by the appearance of the serpent.
“Do we wait, go around it, or turn back?”
“We can’t pretend it’s not there.”
We both had different responses, but we knew we had to come to an agreement.
Just before we saw the snake, we had been talking about a situation that has haunted our relationship for many years. A situation that has tried to pull our relationship apart. It rears its poisonous head every now and again. It is often provoked by a social gathering. A phone call. A memory. We can’t shake it. It hurts. Still. After many years.
A person close to Christian vehemently disagrees with his choice of partner: me.
Sometimes we were silent about it, waited for it to pass and time to heal. I can be an avoider. I closed my eyes and hoped that it wouldn’t be there when I opened them.
But it was.
We tried going around it by going off the track. Christian tried different tactics to “fix” the situation.
Most of them back-fired.
We tried turning back. Retreating. Even considered moving to another house to keep a distance from it.
It was still there. It still is there.
A family member or a friend who doesn’t like your partner can spread poison through your relationship. Parents can be disappointed in your choice of partner. Siblings can be jealous. Friends can be competitive. They can subtly lure you away from your greatest asset: your relationship
Each person handles it differently. Early in our marriage, we would avoid it. When I grew more comfortable with opening up, we would argue about it. Or Christian would point out the things I did wrong. Or I would blame him for it.
Then the wonderful thing happened.
Christian shared a technique he had been working on with his patients.
“Let’s try playing ‘you and me against the world’ with this issue.”
In a society that values individual happiness this is not always easy to do. Family and friends’ unhelpful criticisms of our partner can play over and over in our head. They get in.
“Actually, he’s not that respectful”
“Yes, she is very manipulative”
Playing “you and me against the world” means putting individual happiness aside and seeking together happiness. It’s not easy. You have to stop all the “what do I want?” thoughts and cultivate “what do we want?”
Once you have decided to stand on the same side against the problem, you are twice as strong.
The next time we saw this person, we decided to play you and me against the world. We used a lot of “we” language. We stole little private moments to check on our strategy. We affirmed each other in front of other people. But we were still on our guard.
Lots of negative thoughts about this person still come up for me. I have recently tried thinking about wonderful things happening for this person: for their health, for their career, for their relationships. Blessing rather than cursing. Strangely, this has helped a lot.
The poison still works its way into our lives at times. But we no longer ignore it, go round it, or retreat. We hold hands a little more tightly. At the moment it is only a snake on the trail in front of us.
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.