No Ifs, Ands, or BUTTS!
This week, we learned about Gridlock - which is what happens in the blessed marriage state when we can't resolve our perpetual problems. In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Gottman says that couples are in Gridlock when "neither can make any headway in getting the other to understand and respect their perspective, much less agree with it. As a result, they eventually view the partner as just plain selfish. Each becomes more deeply entrenched in his or her position, making compromise impossible."
All marriages struggle with perpetual problems, and mine is no different! I think all couples have one or two big ones that just won't go away. Like many other marriages, one of ours is our difference in need for physical affection. For the last 16+ years of our marriage, I have reacted the exact same way when my hubby gets touchy, specifically when he pats my butt. After reading Gottman's book, I know that this action is one of my husband's 'bids for attention', but I still can't help but roll my eyes and feel like a piece of meat every single time. I have expressed this to my husband countless times and he assures me that his fondness for my rear is no indication of disrespect to me. In fact, to him it is just the opposite!
When my husband's dad got home from work every day, the first thing he would do was set his briefcase down, walk over to his wife, bestow a kiss, and give her butt an affectionate little pat. I've known this for years, but it didn't click until this week's reading. For my husband, the butt pat is a symbol of being secure in a relationship. Seeing this affection between his parents made him feel safe as a kid.
My childhood was dramatically different. My mother was in and out of insecure, dysfunctional relationships. I was surrounded by pornography. My mother often spoke about sex in front of me, using vulgar language and way too many details. She joked about it all the time, and eventually I began to despise the way that made me feel. I never had any control over my environment and I often felt trapped and scared. For some reason, I associate anything sexual with this feeling of insecurity.
So, when I feel that hand on my butt, the first thing that comes to mind is, 'Ugh, he's making another sexual advance. Is that all he wants from me?' When, in reality, this habit of his has nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with his dream of having a secure relationship like his parents. My dream is to feel safe and in control of my environment, just the opposite of how I grew up. So we find our lines getting crossed all over the place. Once again, I find that my partner is perfect for me in every way - the good and the bad. Indeed, our Father in Heaven "has hooked us up with partners and life experiences that are perfectly suited to grow us toward Godhood" (Goddard, Drawing Heaven into Your Marriage).
I am so grateful for my knowledge of the Gospel, that if we yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, we will be able to put off the natural man (or spouse). We can be perfected in Christ. What a glorious message!