A marriage maven admits her imperfections and acknowledges she has room to grow!
Hero worship makes me uncomfortable. I am an extremely minor public figure, except among certain family members and friends who inflate my fame. As a marriage expert, I sense that many people who have heard of me think I must be a perfect marriage partner. This is not true.
I’m no hero.
I can relate to a thought expressed by Shirley Luthman, MSW, who co-founded the Marin Family Therapy Institute and was an enormously popular therapist in the 1970’s and beyond. Many people idealized her, thinking she had it all together. She had said something like, “I have issues, like everyone else. The difference is that I know how to conceptualize them.”
Below I’m sharing a few of mine:
Personally, I’m often late–for get-togethers with friends, exercise classes, lectures, and plays. Some people think lateness is disrespectful, which is why I’m on time for speaking engagements and appointments with clients and colleagues.
Yet I give myself leeway in my personal life because…
I expect to succeed in cramming more into a day than time permits. A friend said, “You need to get one of those 26 hour days.” Sounds good to me.
From where did I get this sense of entitlement about time? Does it come from living in “I want it all” Marin County, home to myriads of spirituality seekers and narcissistic personalities, often seen in combination, and maybe contagious? (I used to be punctual, before settling here.) From my perfectionistic drive-to-accomplish nature, which keeps me working until the job gets done? Or is my lack of personal promptness due to a slowing down associated with aging, so that doing things takes longer now, and I’m not recognizing the need to allow for more time?
Next is yet another possibility:
I have people pleasing tendencies. This could explain why I tell my usually patient husband, and think I believe it, “I can be ready to go in five minutes,” when I should know it will be more like twenty. But I want him to be happy and he wants me to be ready now, to drive to a hiking spot, a friend’s home, or elsewhere. Now.
He often says he’ll wait for me in the car. Twenty minutes later, I finally, guiltily, join him there. He doesn’t look happy. I want things to be okay between us. Here’s a sample of our conversation:
Me: I’m sorry I kept you waiting.
Him: (low grumble).
Me: Do you forgive me?
Him: (softening) We’ll see…maybe once we get going.
Me: (on the road a couple of minutes later) Do you forgive me yet?
Him: (half smiling) Alright…
Confession # 4
I was not always a marriage maven. In fact I grew up without seeing a good marriage. After years of dissatisfaction, my parents divorced when I was thirteen.
How did I end up a marriage maven? As an adult, I found role models and teachers. They were friends, colleagues, and clients. I gained expertise in couple and family therapy after receiving terrific training at the Family Therapy Institute of Marin.
Yet I stayed single for a long time because I lacked faith that I could succeed in marriage. Eventually, aided by psychotherapy and spiritual mentors, I learned to believe in myself as someone who could succeed in marriage. My husband and I are about to celebrate our 27th wedding anniversary. So far, so good!
So for me, the end was rooted in the beginning. My parent’s divorce when I was a child inspired me to look for answers as an adult. I found role models and people who believed in my ability to succeed in marriage. And now my mission is to help couples and singles gain the marriage they’ve always wanted, on that supports them emotionally and spiritually as well as physically and materially.
I slip in an occasional You-statement, giving a critical, blaming message. Yes, even a marriage maven can get reactive when her buttons get pushed. When this happens, I’m ashamed and try to switch into a congruent mode, using respectful I-statements instead.
Enough confessing for now. I’m no hero, yet perhaps we all have a bit of heroism in us when we accept our imperfections and recognize that we always have room to grow; marriage mavens too!
[Marcia Naomi Berger]