I love counseling and marriage therapy and felt my calling to this profession at an early age. But there’s a lot of time and education you need to get through before you can run your first couples therapy session.
Like many people, as I was advancing along the way in life and my training, I found myself working an odd job or two. And when I say odd job, I mean it. One of my most notable summer jobs was working as a gravedigger.
This was a few years ago, back before heavy equipment could do the digging for you. I had my good shovels, a pickaxe, tape measure, string, and a tarp. I spent eight hours a day out in the elements digging those graves, shovel by shovel. A tiny bit of dirt at a time.
Don’t worry. I’m not here to be morbid or force you to dwell on your own mortality. This is a marriage counseling website, and I’m here with a message to help your marriage, so please bear with me.
Graves were dug in my time, a shovelful at a time. Some days, when I was exhausted, they were truly small shovelfuls. But slowly, inch by inch, those graves were dug.
This is, unfortunately, what happens in so many marriages.
Nobody starts a marriage, hoping it’ll die off. We start off the relationship full of hope, love, and passion for our new lives together. There’s energy and excitement.
But then conflicts emerge. Couples begin facing a decision – to add another battle to their growing list or avoid or minimize the issue. Honestly, it’s not usually the conflicts that kill the marriage. It’s the small compromises couples make in their marriage to “keep the peace”.
Over the years, couples grow tired of bickering or seek to avoid conflict, hoping that “avoiding a fight” will make a better marriage. You come home tired after a long day, or maybe you’ve been arguing for a couple of days…whatever the reason, you choose to avoid the conflict. You acquiesce this time to “keep the peace.”
Sometimes, you need to pick your battles and know when to push and wait. But unfortunately, all too many couples choose avoidance too often. They deny and distort their dreams so they can avoid a fight on any particular day. They put off a difficult conversation now that could have saved years of pain later. They choose a form of slow death for their marriage.
Inch by inch, and shovel by shovel.
Of course, we’re not talking about literal death, like when I shoveled the last bit of dirt on the grave. But killing off the hope, love, and passion they began the marriage with. Making those small daily choices to avoid scorn, ridicule, rejection, or failure whittle down all the joy and excitement they started with, slowly killing the marriage.
This is, of course, part of human nature. It happens on small and large scales in every aspect of our lives. We face daily decisions that could make our lives easier or harder. And yes, it is tough to speak up and face the conflict. The psychologist Rollo May said, “The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it is conformity.”
It’s so easy to just give in and go with the flow. To avoid a conflict and enjoy a few extra moments of peace in our day.
One of the founding fathers of our country, Patrick Henry, faced a large-scale version of this problem. The early settlers could avoid war and give in to a series of demands from the British. They could continue to enjoy the backing and support of what was at that time one of the most powerful nations in the world. Or they could fight for what they believed in and what made them feel alive.
Patrick Henry, of course, said it much better than I ever could when he said, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
Again, don’t get me wrong here. It can often be much easier to choose to face a larger-scale conflict when the decisions are between war or subjugation. But our marriages need that same fighting spirit.
Take a bit of advice from this old gravedigger. Stop digging your grave shovel by shovel. Talk to your partner. Face the conflict. Have the hard talk. Don’t be afraid to share your dreams with your partner and what makes you feel alive.
Courageously facing conflict and being honest and vulnerable with our partners gives life to our marriages. Unlike the good folks I buried, your marriage still has life and hope.
We’re here for you if you struggle to face conflict or have the talks you know you need to have with your partner. We’ll help you learn how to express your feelings in a healthy and uplifting way to put life back into your marriage. You’re here reading this, which shows that you care enough to look for answers!
Please reach out to us if we can help you more.