Saturday, August 14, 2010

Marriage Reflections - Part 2

In the last blog post I wrote about the first of four marriage principles that I talked about when we spoke the last two Sunday evenings. The first life skill or principle was "growth begins where blaming ends."

I received an e-mail from a person who read that post and then wrote in detail about how that life skill was new to him and it really struck him with the truth of it. That's always encouraging, to know that someone reads and especially that someone is helped.

The second marriage principle that I chose to speak about from the many that we've learned over the years, was "marital collusive games." I first came across this in a book, Intimate Partners-Patterns in Love and Marriage by Maggie Scarf. This book is not written from a Biblical perspective, but it has many truths that when applied are very helpful.

I first explained the word "collusive." The dictionary says: a secret or illegal cooperation or conspiracy, esp. in order to cheat or deceive others. The origin is
late Middle English: from Latin collusion-, from colludere ‘have a secret agreement’ (see collude.

I like the simple definition given in the origin of the word: to have a secret agreement. When a couple marries, unknown to them, they often make an agreement between them that is worked out between them in their marital life. Perhaps a couple of examples will help explain.

I'll use our experiences. The first involves anger. Looking back we realized that I had "secretly agreed without knowing it" or "colluded" to be the good girl and denounce anger. That agreement meant that Paul had to carry all the anger for both of us.

Here's how it worked: One day I saw a coach cuss our son out for something he did on the baseball field. It was just a summer pickup league and this was our first experience with that coach. I saw the coach angrily yell at Brett, but Paul didn't. He was visiting with some friends he was sitting with.

On the way home, I inquired if he had seen that. When he said no that he hadn't, I relayed the incident to him. He got very angry and went to the coach's home and had a talk with him. When he came home, I condemned him for his anger. He should not have done that, he was a pastor and should set a better example.

That's a collusive marital game. The game being played is that I had to keep my "good girl" image in place, so I transferred all the anger I felt and needed to express to Paul so he would, and then I could condemn him for being angry. But, notice that the anger got expressed.

For years we carried our labels well. Then through various circumstances and events over a period of a few years, we both learned to carry our own anger, own it and express it in non-harmful ways. What a switch!! I lost my good girl label and became real and normal. Paul lost his angry label and became real and normal.

That's just one example. Another example along the same lines is our preference of music. I was the good Christian girl who wanted to listen to and wanted my kids to listen only to Christian music. (Actually I know that no music is "Christian," only people can be Christ-like or Christian, but everyone calls it that, so I'm taking a little license here.) Paul liked Country & Western and 50's music. We kept these pretty separate. When I began to learn C&W music, Paul had a real problem. I was shattering his good-girl image of me. I was stepping out of this collusive marital game that we didn't even know we had set up. Now we both enjoy all types of music, very much suiting our own tastes. I love to two-step to C&W music, I love classical music, I love opera! And I still like most Christian music. Paul didn't have to do much changing on this one, I was the major culprit and game player.

We've had a few other collusive marital games that we've identified and exposed in our relationship. While we were raising children, Paul liked to wear the white hat; i.e., he liked to say "yes" to the kids' requests without thinking through all the ramifications. I wore the black hat. I usually said "no" and then might rethink it, but I was always aware of all the dangers and what-ifs and the responsibilities and schedules that had to be considered. We were a little late learning this one. We didn't recognize and pull out of this collusive game until the kids were almost grown.

We also had a great collusive marital game going about money. I was the saver, the check balancer, the no credit partner. He was the spender, the loaner, the borrower, the credit guy. This was a big one and took many fights, make-ups, learning, and practicing before we finally identified this collusive. It was a slow process coming to reality in this area, but we have been successful!

A sub-title for this post could be "The Games People Play."

Paul and I can visit with a couple for awhile and pretty well identify their collusive marital games. Not that we share with them what we see, but it helps us understand and relate to others.

Identifying your collusive marital games is not a one-discussion, let's figure this out kind of thing. It works well when both partners are committed to loving each other and wanting to give their best individually and get the most out of their partnership. I highly recommend it with this disclaimer, it's tough work and sometimes painful, but so worth it.


Becky Dietz said...

Ugh. I see myself. (Where were you 35 years ago??? I needed this then. HA!!)

rachelfraim said...

Again, I'll say - you and Paul are such good role models. Thanks for sharing the examples, always helps me understand more clearly.
I have to agree with Becky - UGH! - I have work to do.

Mary Burleson said...

Thirty-five years ago I was in ignorance. That's where I was. haha I've learned so much and especially so in the last ten years. What's interesting is that I'm learning a lot from you. I really like your blog posts and staying up with you and Andy and your family.

Our speaking on marriage this last month made me go back and pinpoint the best things we've learned that were "change-points" in our relationship. What a good exercise that has been. I forget so easily, and I'm glad that these principles are a part of us now and not just teachings we pull up.

Rachel, thanks for saying Paul and I are good role models. I will accept that compliment with the caveat that we are models of growing and learning. No way could we be considered good marriage role models except for stick-to-it-ive-ness! We've learned everything we know by doing it wrong, struggling, fighting, hurting, seeking, learning, and then practicing. What a process! I wish we and others could learn without so much pain and without our hurting others through our mistakes, especially our kids. But, hey, looking forward we move on!!

Thanks for commenting.