by James E. Barrick, Ph.D. ©
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If there were only two people on earth, there would still be conflicts, e.g. “Hey, stay out of my apple orchard,” or “You just ate my apple,” etc.
So we (Society) invented lawyers and judges to protect our rights, rather than drawing swords. Society also invented marital therapists to resolve conflicts within marriage.
Very few people get married in order to have conflict. Yet by the very nature and structure of marriage there is more room for conflict than in any other human endeavor. Even in war, no one would suggest you share your bed with your enemy, much less pass the toast and jam for breakfast. The high degree of intimacy called for in a marriage is within the most intense and personal relationship that human's have devised. This is both a strength and a weakness of the marital state. It is a strength in that we can make that intimacy into a fantastic opportunity for personal growth and development. It is a weakness in that we are constantly tested to deal with conflict in our most vulnerable state.
Many people seek outside professional assistance for marital problems when it is, unfortunately, too late. Perhaps an analogy will clarify the point:
As the fire truck pulls up to the address in response to a call, the firemen are somewhat overwhelmed by what they see. The house has been engulfed in flames and has now burned down to the floorboards. The roof and the walls have been totally consumed, leaving only the foundation as an outline of what once was a home. Sitting on opposite sides of the lawn, the husband and wife are sorting among their few, personal, possessions salvaged from the destruction of their home.
After the last ember is extinguished, one fireman approaches the couple and asks, “Why wasn't the alarm turned in sooner? Why weren't we called before it got to this state? We might have been able to save it. We could have contained the blaze before it destroyed everything.”
The husband might respond, “We thought we could handle it ourselves. Besides, it wasn't my fault, she's responsible for the fire. She should have called.” To which the wife usually responds, “But you saw it first, you should have called.” The sad truth is that by not acting sooner, to save what they could, they both contributed to the loss, and they are both responsible.
Usually the couple in conflict shows up after they are polarized and one spouse is ready to leave the relationship. Then, in desperation, they call for help, long after the warning signals have been sent and received, time and time again. Needless to say, this makes the task of the marital therapist an uphill battle to provide this couple with assistance.