It’s not too hard to describe what is often called a loveless marriage. I remember working with one couple who said that all they did was argue and fight, and they were tired of their loveless marriage. For them, it meant there was no comfortable place for them to be with each other. They had to keep their guard up at all times so the other person didn’t have any advantage in the arguments.
It was an interesting case. I came up with a unique intervention that focused on listening, and within a couple of weeks their fighting was basically under control. But now they faced a new problem–they didn’t know how to be together as a couple. They didn’t know how to love each other anymore. That task took a bit longer to accomplish.
They represented both types of a loveless marriage: 1.) there is no comfortable space between them and so they argue and fight continuously, or 2.) there is just an emptiness in the so-called marriage where neither person is really present. In an earlier posting , we commented that arguments and disagreements are a part of good marriages. In fact, Gary Thomas says in his book Sacred Marriage, that if there are no arguments, we’d better check to see if one or both partners have disengaged from the marriage.
But what about the opposite of the loveless marriage? We had a caller on the New Life Live radio and TV program recently who described the opposite. She told us that six months ago, she had had major surgery. When she came home from the hospital, her husband had moved out and had taken all the money. She was still recovering from her surgery, and now their home was in foreclosure, the debt collectors were constantly calling her because they couldn’t find her husband, and he had moved in with a girl-friend.
The thing that struck us counselors in the studio was that she still loved the guy, and wanted to know how she could get him back. To us, it seemed like she was in a “boundary-less marriage.” Love alone ruled.
One of us asked if she had seen an attorney, and the answer was “No, I don’t want to loose him. I still love him.” We were quick to point out that seeing the attorney was not to file for divorce–although it might lead to that–it was simply to see about setting some boundaries, or limits, on her husband, and hopefully force him to to be accountable. Her response was “I just don’t know what to do.”
A healthy marriage has both love and limits, just like good parenting. Without the limits, love is mushy and unrealistic; without love, limits become rigid rules that push people apart. Finding the balance is part of maturity in any relationship.
So what have you seen in your marriage? What have you seen in the marriages of your friends? Too much love, or too many limits?