On a recent trip, I looked out the window of my airplane seat and noticed fluffy white clouds and a clear blue sky. Below the massive clouds were cities covered in darkness. I noticed that from my vantage point, the day was clear, blue and sunny. From below the clouds, the sky above the city was dark, stormy, and probably windy. Perspective is our reality, each person has a perspective that colors and filters their world. After several months of therapy, one client asked me “will it always feel this hopeless?” The same client usually asks me, “well, what am I supposed to do?” The work of a therapist is to show the clarity that lies beyond the darkness or hopeless feelings. Clarity and appreciation for painful life circumstances is difficult to see when your partner is suffering from sexual addiction, is disconnected, has abandonment, shame, or has had an affair. It is hard for you to see these circumstances as beneficial in your recovery when you’re in severe pain. The perspective often seems bleak and dismal.
The work towards recovery is to recognize that you cannot always see what lies below or outside the clouds. In this case, the clouds are your mental filter or your pain. Much like the atmosphere I experienced during my flight, your emotional background “clouds” or alters your perspective, your reality, your judgement of life and adds filters to how you see your significant other. Seeing your reality from one perspective, limits your ability to see the light from another perspective. It leaves you in a dark, cloudy place.
During group session this past week a client asked, “Why should I do the therapy if he isn’t committed?” Marriage counseling is not about the “relationship” or the “marriage” all of the time…..therapy is about the individuals inside the relationship. The relationship is the outer core that provides definition to the two people who have been together, sharing intimacy on several levels, much like the earth is part of a larger universe. Or like a car with working parts. If something is wrong with your car, you don’t throw out the entire car and buy a different one, or tell yourself, “Well, the car isn’t working, I guess I need another car.” You take the car to a mechanic for a check up to pinpoint the part of the car that is causing the malfunction. Sometimes the malfunction involves several parts and pieces that need adjusting. Marital therapy is the same way….two people who are complex systems, entering into a relationship, who have baggage from their backgrounds, enter into a system of a relationship. Whatever is not working, needs to be checked out. The correct or right answer does not exist, until the work has been done to understand the truth about who you are and why you see life as you do, then this is shared with your significant other. This means sharing all of who you are, the good, the bad, the ugly to one another, and not just focusing on the “bad” behavior that brought you to therapy. One goal is to learn about your reactions and emotions to your relationship’s challenges. These are the opportunities that arrive at your doorstep so you can learn about yourself through your pain, even when you know there are no guarantees. Being married and having a piece of paper that says you are married, does NOT provide a guarantee of loyalty, love, trust, and unconditional love. It is only an intention. There aren’t marriage police officers that come by to check up on you to see if you are being a good wife or husband. Relationships cause pain and take a lot of work. Being in recovery means understanding that the world can be a painful place, that all people have issues, and you might get stung. Instead of becoming reactive and bitter, you can have your needs met if you could understand your reactions and learn more about yourself. You can become more loving and accepting of yourself and others, even in the midst of painful circumstances. This journey requires work and patience, with tolerance for discomfort while facing the unknown.