A young couple was deeply involved in the timeless dance of married couples since the first union, and I am not referring to sex. This was the dance of war. Each had taken a rigid angry stance on opposite sides of their ballroom. In fact, the battle for this championship had escalated to the point that, no matter what one said, the other was definitely going to disagree. No compromise, take no prisoners. Victory at any cost.
The other dancers in that ballroom, aka their kids, and their desires for a peacefully happy dance were now unimportant. The ballroom was an ugly scene of combat, and winning was the only thing that mattered.
Sound familiar? Probably. Any one in a close relationship has very likely found themselves embroiled in an argument, and decided their opinion is the only one that holds any worth.
This couple ended up in a marriage counselor’s office, sitting on opposite ends of the couch. Backs ramrod straight, arms crossed, chins high, and eyes glaring. The counselor felt like he was watching a ballet that he had seen too many times. And after each had danced their part, he made one simple statement.
“The problem is not the problem.”
“Wife, he isn’t the problem, and husband, neither is she.” With that, their glares turned on him, and he began to speak from experience and training.
“What you both are yelling about are only symptoms of the problem, not the real problem. For example, if your child woke one night with a very high fever, you would most likely cover her with cold compresses and give her baby Tylenol before calling the doctor. But that would not solve the real problem…the reason behind the high fever. Your doctor would have to take steps to find and treat the actual illness itself. So, let’s just back up, drop the weaponry, and do some work. Before this disease in your marriage escalates and causes enough symptoms to eventually cause death of the body.”
What is the difference between symptoms and real issues in marriage? For example, a wife complains bitterly to her spouse that he has, once again, broken his promise to lock the doors at bedtime. It’s not really an issue to him so he doesn’t understand her fear, and he repeatedly forgets. But will the careless husband learning to lock doors address the underlying issue? Probably not. Because the doors may be just a symptom. The real problem could very well be tied to a lack of security and love, in her deeply buried memories of childhood.
Don’t make the mistake of dealing just with symptoms only. Kind of like the man who painted the well house a pristine white when the pump began delivering murky brown water into the house. His work didn’t fix the problem of the bad water, but according to him, “It sure felt good to be trying to do something about it!”