Marriage Minute # 93 Psych—ed (From my book, Marriage Minutes, available at Amazon.com)
Around 1910 an interesting play, “Psych—ed”, was written by Hughes Mearns, containing this odd line of dialog.
“As I was climbing up the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today,
I wish, I wish he’d stay away.”
In a recent interview I was asked about the most difficult type of marriage counseling that I encounter, and I thought of this verse by Mearns. One of the most difficult marital problems we deal with, is the problem that doesn’t really exist. The person just isn’t happy, and they think it is the marriage that makes them that way, but it is not because of the marriage, at all.
Their spouse hears accusations of failure and, if they are mature, they look honestly to see if the accusations are valid. But, then they see that the accusations are just the thrashing around of an unhappy soul; one who dares not take responsibility for their own happiness.
Real happiness has a lot to do with living up to our own standards, and living out our purpose, rather than having someone else “make” us happy. It is magical thinking to believe that the core of our happiness has its foundation in someone else, or that the décor of our life is dependent upon someone else’s artistry. It’s the problem that isn’t there, not on the stair, at least, and it is the problem that won’t go away due to someone else’s effort, because this nebulous unhappiness is self-inflicted.
Please understand, there are many problems that are created by someone else, and many marriages fail because of the behaviors of the other person. But, this is a different creature. Let’s be careful not to make our spouse the person they become. Day after day of demanding that they “make the world go away”, can make any spouse consider going away.
Thinking back, we may find that the person who seems to blame their marriage for all the problems of life had blamed someone else before the marriage. Perhaps the single adult should watch out for the person who seems unhappy with a lot of people. They may not be looking for a rescue; they may be looking for the next person to blame.
Have you heard the joke about the man who was speaking to his wife on his cell phone when she told him to drive carefully, because she heard on the radio that someone was driving on the wrong side of the freeway. He replied, “It’s worse than that. Everyone out here, but me, is on the wrong side of the road.” The first thing to do with a problem on the stair may be to make sure it isn’t ourselves we are meeting.