The art of loving combat. Part 1

If you consider marriage a lifelong romance, you are certain to be disillusioned. The shallowest of complaints is that marriage destroys romance…of course it does! Marriage appears to be designed to allow two people to fall out of love and into reality. Love may blossom in romance, but in marriage we return to our deep psychic roots that are mysteriously alive no matter how many times they have been put under a therapeutic lens. Many of us separated and alienated from our families of origin, divorced, veterans of many love affairs are surprised when we approach intimacy and commitment to find infantile needs, feelings and expectations we had exiled or repressed come flooding back.

Why does marriage and the threat-promise of intimacy put our souls in a pressure cooker?

Romance is all “yes”and heavy breathing, an affair built around the illusion of unbroken affirmation. Marriage is “yes” and “no” and “maybe”, a relationship of trust that is steeped in the primal ambivalence of love and sometimes hate.

Sam Keen wrote a letter to his wife that embodies the dance.

“Dear Jananne. I love and hate you: find you desirable and terrible, satisfying and maddening, a helpmate and a saboteur. I was rich and wounded in history long before I knew you. In you I taste generations of women who have nurtured and injured me-my ex-wife, past lovers, my mother, my grandmother. One moment I am encompassed in your earth-mothering arms, tendered and warmed. A moment later I look into your face and see bloody Kali ready to devour me. I know you as a woman who can take up a flute and improve on the music of the spheres and an hour later play the shrill fury. Light-bringer and shadow monster, creator and destroyer. You delight me, except for those times I could wring your neck and dance a jig on your grave”.

Perhaps a bit harsh, especially the part about dancing a jig on her grave, but marriage may provide the best hospital for our ancient wounds. The alchemy of unconditional love that heals us only takes place when a man and a woman, knowing the best and worst of each other, finally accept what is unacceptable in the other, burn the bridges and close off their escape routes.

It’s a bloody difficult equation…


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