lundi, novembre 02, 2009

So you say its time...

Listening to this old Carly Simon song after oh, 30 years, I was struck by its fly in amber 1960's feminism. I remember, even as an adolescent, hearing this and wondering if marriage was all about learning to be "me first, by myself."

Young Carly apparently also had a pretty dark view of marriage. In hindsight, "couples cling and claw and drown in love's debris" also sounds a bit dramatic, very much in harmony with the ethos of the generation just in front of mine.

Of course, I don't recall thinking that at the time.

What sent me back to Carly was a conversation I had with a pastoral counselor about a commentary I'm working on about clergy in hot water -- why they end up there, and how they can help themselves and be helped.

One thing he said was particularly relevant, and not solely to clergy. "If you can't tell your spouse what you are doing" he said, "you shouldn't be doing it."

I've become pretty convinced that he's on to something. Yes, there are some conversations that need to be confidential -- there are laws about what doctors or therapists can tell others, including their wife or husband.

The point is, I think, to be open about the relationships you have with others. Are you telling Mary or Connor more about problems in your marriage than you are telling your spouse? That may not be a cause of your problems -- but it could a possible symptom.

Happy marriages may have struggles -- who does not? Yet generally, these couples seem to be each other's best friends.

Not every unhappy marriage is replete with secrets. Some marriages that fail, sadly, seem to collapse inward under the weight of tragedies, disapproval from outsiders or struggles with children.

But some are on the slippery secrets slope.

Clergy, as with others in helping professions, aren't good at admitting they have human needs. In an age when Protestant mainline clergy and priests in some Catholic circles have lost the unique sense of authority that used to come with the collar, it's even more tempting to think that they can go it alone -- but eventually the loneliness can lead to all sorts of unhealthy behaviors.

If you are in a helping profession, and you know (yup, you know) that the boundaries are starting to get a little unclear (friend/lover? parishioner/confessor?) -- call a friend in your profession. Find a therapist. Pray. Run. If you don't like these options, clean your house!

And think -- if you feel that 3 hour coffee with that cute male parishioner or female gym friend was so innocent -- then why aren't you telling your spouse?

Update -- Reading the story of the Obama's marriage in this past Sundays NYT magazine, I was fascinated by, at a certain point, how willing she was to tell him how unhappy she was. She asked for what she needed -- and they negotiated from there.

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