I was sitting in my therapist's office, close to tears. Week after week I would come in for a session and spew forth a litany of complaint. I was married to a man who couldn't hold a job so we were always worried about money. He was also highly critical, lazy and irresponsible. I was grumbling about something I asked him to do, most likely pick up his dirty clothes off the floor, which seemed like a small favor, but he hadn't followed through. I was angry and disappointed since I believed that my request was completely reasonable, and I couldn't understand why he kept acting so flaky.
In my most piteous voice I asked, "Is this too much to ask?" I was shocked when my therapist replied, "No, except of him." How dare she not commiserate with me! I only wanted him to do what I wanted when I wanted it, and he would not. I tried to plead my case for making him out to be a louse and my therapist wouldn't cooperate. She kept rubbing my nose in the concept that maybe this imperfect person was simply an imperfect, neurotic man. What you see is what you get.
The next week when I started to go into my act again, she asked me a question that took me by surprise. "Can you accept this man, as he is today, that he may never change?" I wouldn't answer because in that moment I realized that the answer might be, "No." I am ashamed to say that I did not face the consequences of taking responsibility for staying with him. I continued in that relationship for a few more years, insisting that my misery was entirely his fault.
It took me a long time to admit that I got something out of feeling like a martyr. Thankfully, I was able to learn from my painful relationship and eventually became a marriage and family therapist myself. The most important thing I learned from my own journey was that the question my therapist asked me is the only question there is to ask when we are contemplating spending the rest of our life with another person. Keep Reading...
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