There are many ways a marriage can be troubled, and this is one of them: banking method of credits and debits. Another way to be in a marriage is with a giving, trusting heart.
Our conflict has to do with who does what, who owes, who pays, with getting our needs met and meeting the other’s. It has to do with money, labor, time, attention, affection, sex, and energy--what the Taoists call qi, or life force. It's a qi exchange equation. How much of mine do I owe her, how much of hers does she owe me, how much into our common operation?
Stacy and I have never had a clear understanding on these issues. We fell in love as children in our twenties and thought love should be enough and amor vincit omnia. We entered the relationship carrying assumptions from each of our first families that to us seemed reasonable, universal and self-evident, only to discover quickly that the other found them suspect if not appalling. Rather than bring our differences into sunlight and negotiate toward the middle, we’ve each spent twenty years trying to convert, educate, persuade and finally coerce the other to the proper viewpoint. We've failed and ended in a state of warfare with the person we know best and love or once loved deeply, and I don't know how this happened or how we got here.
We each secretly suspect the other of malingering, forcing us to shoulder more than our share of the burden, taking too much qi and giving back too little, though when we look hard and close and fairly--The way I'm trying to--I can see that Stacy works just as hard as I do, and has no more rest or luxury or ease than I have. The most ready explanation for the hell we’re in is the other must've caused it. Why assume this? Because we both remember a time before hell opened, the time when we were single and lived in clean, bright spaces we maintained with modest effort, a time when we woke up with the cheerful outlook and went about our business with a sunny spirit and succeeded at it mostly. We weren't in hell then, hell came after we joined forces . . . A classic fallacy in logic.
As you read this, does any of it ring true for you? For your marriage? If so, please undertake work right away so you don’t end up in hell. For those of you that this particular flavor of marriage difficulty doesn’t resonate with, good. I still encourage you to look for areas to improve.
Letting marriage slide rarely ends well. Either it leads to the sort of pain as described above, or it leads to loss of connection and intimacy in some way.
And ultimately, what we all want is to be loved for who we are.