Conflict in mariage

I am not posting much these days because I am intently digesting a major edit of my manuscript newly entitled Why We Became Human. Here is an excerpt that I now am working on:

During the decade that I was active in marital counseling I spent a great deal of time exploring the depth of complementarity in couples. Much to their surprise, through counseling they realized that the differences that divided them had initially been the attraction. Perhaps our affinity for the balanced completion of one another was evolved as much for balancing our children’s temperaments as for the usefulness of a temperamental division of perception and inclination. Almost inevitably, in response to varieties of accumulated stress, the finely wrought difference that had united them in betrothal had regressed back into the ape-dynamic of dominance and submission that patiently lurks beneath all human associations. The irony in many of these situations is that the regression of the naturally and functionally “submissive”(1) partner propels him or her into resentfully dominating the relationship, so both are locked into reverberating resentments for dominating one another.

Similar to my experience in treating mental illnesses, the core emotional sickness of the reverberating resentment had to be wrestled to the ground first. This often proved to be a herculean task. Sometimes I resorted to prescribing both partners small doses of a Prozac-like medication not just for its emotional modulating effect, but also as a message to them, particularly if it worked, that their manifest squabbling was a meaningless mutual sickness. Only after the illness of the reverberating resentment had abated, could a couple digest and benefit from insight into their arcane (and fascinating) dynamics. Sometimes I would plead/demand a couple to “STOP IT” (2) for me, so I could engage them in a reliably intriguing revelation of yet another elegant temperamental balance that romance had braided together. I came away from that experience believing that complementary variance in temperament is one of the deepest biological ingredients of romantic love and that the uniqueness of these differences should be revered and celebrated throughout a marriage.

(1) The terms dominance and submission in a healthy marriage are highly misleading because, at bottom, these roles are defined by which of the major social anxieties motivates (by aversion) each partner: the so-called dominant partner is motivated by the fear of (work) failure in the wider social context, whereas the the so-called submissive partner is motivated by the fear of interpersonal separation, including within the marriage.

(2)  Must see Bob Newhart routine:



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