“Love and Marriage, love and marriage, go together like a horse and carriage.” So played theme song from the hit television show “Married with Children” aired during the 1980’s and 1990’s. Like its introduction leads us to believe, love and marriage is a common pairing, like peanut butter is to jelly, or cereal is to milk. However, just as the two characters of the show portray, within any common pairing, there is a shadow side, an experience that must be worked through in order to find value in any life endeavor we undertake. For the horse, it is work. For the wagon, it is the burden of carrying the direct weight of the load. And for the married couple, who in the tv show seemed to loathe one another, it is tough journey of working through the times associated with finding one’s happiness during the “ever after.”
So, when is a marriage worth saving?
While the answer to this question can have as many answers as there are people who are married, in this article, I will approach this question primarily from the emotional lens of relationship conflict.
As a psychotherapist and Marriage Counselor, I oftentimes help people deal with less desirable emotions that arise during inopportune moments in life. Whether it be anxiety, attention problems, depression, hopelessness, trauma, or difficulties adjusting to new scenarios in life, emotions arise as a reaction to a complex series internal and environmental events. These processes ultimately help shape our lives, driving the journey we undertake to realize our full potential. While this is a daunting and lifelong task, we ultimately decide to complicate it further by deciding to get involved with another person, who like us, will be doing the exact same thing we are attempting to undertake: The lifelong journey to make sense of our self as it helps us to relate to others.
Insane? Possibly. However, this journey stands as the catalyst from which our emotions can reach their highest potential.
Anyone who has ever been in love can tell you of the elated feelings, the general high euphoria that overcame them as they decided to fall into its seemingly endless abyss. Time has no meaning in this period, elation has grabbed you, and you will have lost voluntary moments of reasoning, as you would move to mountains or walk to the ends of the earth to spend just one moment with that person who was worth falling for. This is the theme of legends, the materials sung by the troubadours, or the passion behind the tense, yet fluid steps of the Flamenco dance. It has no temporal bounds, is not governed by the rationalism of reality, and will whisk us away into flights of fantasy. Love: While it is the most powerful emotion by far, it only stands as one half of the equation of the vast work involved in maintaining its presence.
Hate. Oftentimes I hear that the word most often associated with love’s opposite is hate. This is simply not the case. Instead, the true opposite of the ideals love promotes is simply indifference. When a person hates something, they are placing massive amounts of energy towards the object they loathe. While Dark energy remains e energy nevertheless, and hate can assume just as much intensity as the concept of love, within both positions, there is passion present, and a high degree levels of work must occur to maintain this heavy emotional presence. While daunting in task, the more simple answer is to become indifferent.
Indifference. “Who cares.” Does this feel different? Is there love, hate, or any emotion present? When we are asked to love, or to hate a position, our emotions are tugged at, and by putting emotional response into something, dynamic movement is achieved. Well, what would happen if we simply were to remain absent. Stagnation, the absence of life, libido, love, or hate. No, indifference is absence at its best. Indifference is the true opposite to the emotional prowess of love and hate.
Within the guise of relationships, it is imperative to know where you stand on the continuum of love, hate, or indifference. If you have love or hate towards a loved one, you still have an emotional tie in to them. Even if the emotions have a bad overtone, it is important to understand whether these are projected upon either an object (person, place, or thing) or an event that has occurred or not. If so, there are things to salvage within your marriage or relationship. Love or hate, there are still energies bound to the object, and with this, there can be movement within your relationship and not stagnation. If you find yourself moving more towards the side of indifference, you have already removed your emotions from the object you once loved, and attempting to rekindle that would be a daunting task. This is where the pool of stagnation can overwhelm your own personal growth process, and where the relationship that once made sense has lost its libidinal power.