Wishing to resuscitate a dying marriage just now?
I just received some reader’s letter, where she describes her utter desolation because she is watching her ex-husband doing to the new fiancée all those nice behaviors she was dreaming of:
sharing his time,
introducing her to everyone,
praising her in public
And her question was: “If he is able to behave in this way with someone else, what was missing from our marriage that he never behaved in such way?” Was something she didn’t do or provide?
Of course, you can hear a lot of familiar feelings creeping in: self-incrimination, blame and despair…The deep feeling that she didn’t do enough to save (unilaterally) her marriage was taking hold of her. Was there something she could have done better?
Of course, we always have some regrets. Looking back, some aspects of the story now look like we could have done better…in retrospect we have all this clear view of productive and unproductive attitudes. And this reader letter got me thinking:
Suppose that you are in a marriage in the terminal state, where the ony dignified option is to leave now;
Imagine that, at the last-minute, (and only to conjure future regrets and be able to remind yourself and others: “I did all what I could,”) you decide to try something totally outrageous, out of the blue…really being sure that it would not change the situation an iota. Just to have the last confirmation that your relationship is dead.
Then, what would you try? Radical forgiveness!
What is that? a purposeful effort to stop looking at the negative aspects of your partner, and those of your relationship. Gather all the memories and their negative labels, put everything in a box named “Learning Experiences of my Life” and take it to the basement, stored way back far away from you.
Now, comes the heroic aspect of this technique: you have to look at this person as if he is a new person, and treat him with interest and respect. Common courtesy also would be welcomed. Nothing comes back from the past, so no resentment or recriminations, only an attitude of: “what can we learn from each other?” that has no demands, but positive expectations. Of course, there are no expectations that this alone can resuscitate a dying marriage, at the point of separation. But, the absence of acrimony, and hate can do marvels for the dignity of a peaceful separation.
What would it take to carry out this radical forgiveness before that point, where you begin to see miracles? It takes a lot of courage to decide, out of the blue, that we are going to do something radically different!
Not withstanding what we got to believe about this person, (and the list of his bad behaviors can be very long)….if we decide to erase all negativity and show appreciation of whatever small kindness is there, of a little attention offered, of a glass of water in time…is impossible for the other side not to notice. And there resides the beauty of this practice: when we do it, is so surprising for the other side, (only focusing on defense against “aggressions”) that this new behavior rips away all those defenses…and allows some different connection to be re-established. Trust? perhaps a bit; understanding? also, appreciation? You bet!
In this week, it is impossible to accept that there are people so hardened that would not accept and appreciate some respect and kindness. It is the chain of reciprocal behaviors: someone does something positive, and other person appreciates it, and then the first person is motivated to do more of that behavior…and we have a circle of positive emotions doing the miracle. Perhaps it’s impossible to restore the initial amount of love and trust, but we could aim for reestablishing trust and respect instead of resentment and anger. This is not a small bargain when you share children and grandchildren; but some attitude change that all will appreciate heartily.
Do you think that in your case resuscitating your marriage would take some saintly forgiveness and a miracle too? Tell us!