There are no married people problems.
Before you prove me wrong by pointing me to your marriage (which has obvious problems), let me beat you to it by admitting ours is definitely a work in progress too.
So let me say this: There are no married people problems, only people with single people problems who get married.
This slightly revised concept of Andy Stanley’s retains the heart of his message about the subject of marriage problems. There aren’t problems the way we think about them, there are just single people with problems who marry each other.
Let me explain…
Our marriage was stuck some years ago and we decided to get some counselling. Now, there are good counsellors and some not so good, we’ve had both. I was paired with a counsellor whose profile I was concerned wouldn’t be a great match for me, so I called the place and expressed my concerns ahead of time.
They still kept me with him.
He wanted to see Erin and I together for the first session before talking to us individually, which I wasn’t super crazy about because Erin and I only argued with each other when we were together, so why couldn’t we see him separately?
He looked at me and said “Soooo Corey, why are you here?”
“We’re stuck” I said. “I’ve been trying to fix her, but that’s not working, so I just want to see you privately so I can work on myself:)”
This statement is what psychologists everywhere dream of hearing, but this particular counsellor took this moment to look disapprovingly at me, lean over and say “How did that make you FEEL Erin??”
Now I super love touchy feely people, but not as my personal counsellor. I rolled my eyes while Erin said something to the effect of “I agree! I’m here to work on myself too!”
I had mentioned in my concerned phone call that I was convinced I’d been paired with the wrong person. I believe I said something like “He seems nice, but I’m looking for someone a little more straight forward. I have the personality of a CEO and don’t like wasting a lot of time. I just want to hear the truth!”
Well, by the time we were done our session I felt like our counsellor needed a hug from us, which is not altogether that great, and the normally quiet and peace-loving Erin left him a somewhat scathing review about why didn’t he give her any homework to work on??
Now it sounds as if we’re trying to score points off this poor guy but what I really wanted was to take your eyes off of our marriage problems in the simple art of deflection…
I’m great at deflecting. I’m great at talking myself into things. I did, however start to notice that I rarely talk myself into believing that myself is the problem. Just one of my amazing defaults.
Everyone has defaults and thinks they’re perfectly normal, while hating the survival techniques of other people, which seem selfish to them.
Then two people, each with their own survival and happiness foremost in mind (no one says this because they don’t know), enter a marriage relationship with a personal clause along the lines of “Ok, I know this will be a lot of work, and I’m committed to it and to you… as long as you don’t ask me to give up something I can’t or don’t want to”
Am I right?
Then when things don’t work out we just tell ourselves “I had to ____ (leave/ quit/ whatever) to save myself.
This will create some ire in places, but please note that we’ve said these same things ourselves under duress and tend to say whatever we have to if we feel our survival is at stake.
Also please keep in mind that I’m a pastor and have heard every excuse in the book for why people do ridiculous and cruel things to other people. Some of it would shock and enrage you, yet each person is naively convinced in the story they’ve been telling themselves.
Do we counsel people to stay in abusive relationships? No.
Do we feel sorry for a person when their feelings get hurt because their spouse doesn’t trust them because they lie every time they “feel threatened”? Absolutely not. That’s what two year olds do, and last time I checked trust was something you had to earn?
One more for the I Hate Pastor Corey Fan Club.
Every question about personal survival is loaded, but there is this line we have to cross where our selfishness has to die for our relationship to live. The trouble is… we feel like we’re losing ourselves when it happens, and in a way we are.
This is just the journey we’ve been on and I hope it helps a little, though I’m sure your journey is different, but maybe also the same?
Actually now that we’re both committed to working on ourselves as individuals, taking personal stock every day, actually apologizing (for reals) for everything we say and do, living honestly in community, and committed to the opposite of being happy every moment of every day (not sure who sold us that one, but if one is committed to this, one will likewise be committed to one’s own selfishness staying alive and well forever), we’re doing much better thank-you-very-much!
It’s a tricky subject for sure, and especially since Erin is reading this over my shoulder.
But I think she would agree…?
Corey lives in Airdrie with his wife Erin and four daughters and pastors Venue Church (Bert Church Theatre Sundays 10:30 am). You can watch his new series Too Busy NOT To… at venuechurch.ca or listen to his podcast in iTunes.