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Marriage is for Losers
Untangled Blog ^ | March 2, 2012 | Dr. Kelley Flanagan

Posted on 04/26/2012 7:15:21 AM PDT by the_devils_advocate_666

You can be right, or you can be married; take your pick. I can’t remember who told me that, but I do remember that they were only half-joking. The other half, the serious half, is exceedingly important. This is why.

Many therapists aren’t crazy about doing marital therapy. It’s complicated and messy, and it often feels out of control. In the worst case scenario, the therapist has front row seats to a regularly-scheduled prize fight. But I love to do marital therapy. Why? Maybe I enjoy the work because I keep one simple principle in mind: if marriage is going to work, it needs to become a contest to see which spouse is going to lose the most, and it needs to be a race that goes down to the wire.

When it comes to winning and losing, I think there are three kinds of marriages. In the first kind of marriage, both spouses are competing to win, and it’s a duel to the death. Husbands and wives are armed with a vast arsenal, ranging from fists, to words, to silence. These are the marriages that destroy. Spouses destroy each other, and, in the process, they destroy the peace of their children. In fact, the destruction is so complete that research tells us it is better for children to have divorced parents than warring parents. These marriages account for most of the fifty percent of marriages that fail, and then some. The second kind of marriage is ripe with winning and losing, but the roles are set, and the loser is always the same spouse. These are the truly abusive marriages, the ones in which one spouse dominates, the other submits, and in the process, both husband and wife are stripped of their dignity. These are the marriages of addicts and enablers, tyrants and slaves, and they may be the saddest marriages of all.

But there is a third kind of marriage. The third kind of marriage is not perfect, not even close. But a decision has been made, and two people have decided to love each other to the limit, and to sacrifice the most important thing of all—themselves. In these marriages, losing becomes a way of life, a competition to see who can listen to, care for, serve, forgive, and accept the other the most. The marriage becomes a competition to see who can change in ways that are most healing to the other, to see who can give of themselves in ways that most increase the dignity and strength of the other. These marriages form people who can be small and humble and merciful and loving and peaceful.

And they are revolutionary, in the purest sense of the word.

Because we live in a culture in which losing is the enemy (except in Chicago, where Cubs fans have made it a way of life). We wake up to news stories about domestic disputes gone wrong. Really wrong. We go to workplaces where everyone is battling for the boss’s favor and the next promotion, or we stay at home where the battle for the Legos is just as fierce. Nightly, we watch the talking heads on the cable news networks, trying to win the battle of ideas, although sometimes they seem quite willing to settle for winning the battle of decibels. We fight to have the best stuff, in the best name brands, and when we finally look at each other at the end of the day, we fight, because we are trained to do nothing else. And, usually, we have been trained well. In the worst of cases, we grew up fighting for our very survival, both physically and emotionally. But even in the best of situations, we found ourselves trying to win the competition for our parents’ attention and approval, for our peers’ acceptance, and for the validating stamp of a world with one message: win. And, so, cultivating a marriage in which losing is the mutual norm becomes a radically counter-cultural act. To sit in the marital therapy room is to foment a rebellion.

What do the rebellious marriages look like? Lately, when my blood is bubbling, when I just know I’ve been misunderstood and neglected, and I’m ready to do just about anything to convince and win what I deserve, I try to remember a phone call we recently received from my son’s second grade teacher. She called us one day after school to tell us there had been an incident in gym class. After a fierce athletic competition, in which the prize was the privilege to leave the gym first, my son’s team had lost. The losers were standing by, grumbling and complaining about second-grade-versions of injustice, as the victors filed past. And that’s when my son started to clap. He clapped for the winners as they passed, with a big dopey grin on his face and a smile stretched from one ear of his heart to the other. His startled gym teacher quickly exhorted the rest of his team to follow suit. So, a bunch of second grade losers staged a rebellion, giving a rousing ovation for their victorious peers, and in doing so, embraced the fullness of what it can mean to be a loser. When I’m seething, I try to remember the heart of a boy, a heart that can lose graciously and reach out in affection to the victors.

In marriage, losing is letting go of the need to fix everything for your partner, listening to their darkest parts with a heart ache rather than a solution. It’s being even more present in the painful moments than in the good times. It’s finding ways to be humble and open, even when everything in you says that you’re right and they are wrong. It’s doing what is right and good for your spouse, even when big things need to be sacrificed, like a job, or a relationship, or an ego. It is forgiveness, quickly and voluntarily. It is eliminating anything from your life, even the things you love, if they are keeping you from attending, caring, and serving. It is seeking peace by accepting the healthy but crazy-making things about your partner because, you remember, those were the things you fell in love with in the first place. It is knowing that your spouse will never fully understand you, will never truly love you unconditionally—because they are a broken creature, too—and loving them to the end anyway.

Maybe marriage, when it’s lived by two losers in a household culture of mutual surrender, is just the training we need to walk through this world—a world that wants to chew you up and spit you out—without the constant fear of getting the short end of the stick. Maybe we need to be formed in such a way that winning loses its glamour, that we can sacrifice the competition in favor of people. Maybe what we need, really, is to become a bunch of losers in a world that is being a torn apart by the competition to win. If we did that, maybe we’d be able to sleep a little easier at night, look our loved ones in the eyes, forgive and forget, and clap for the people around us.

I think that in a marriage of losers, a synergy happens and all of life can explode into a kind of rebellion that is brighter than the sun. The really good rebellions, the ones that last and make the world a better place, they are like that, aren’t they? They heal, they restore. They are big, and they shine like the sun. And, like the sun, their gravitational pull is almost irresistible.

TOPICS: Miscellaneous; Society
KEYWORDS: divorce; happiness; love; marriage
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To: the_devils_advocate_666; Lazamataz

::::grinning and waiting:::::

gonna be good

21 posted on 04/26/2012 8:01:57 AM PDT by CatherineofAragon (Time for a write-in campaign...Darryl Dixon for President)
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To: the_devils_advocate_666

Thank you for sharing. Several good lessons in there.

22 posted on 04/26/2012 8:03:23 AM PDT by NEMDF
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To: the_devils_advocate_666

I tell young people these three things if they are contemplating marrying someone:

1. If you have no recollection of your fiance ever sincerely apologizing for anything, EVER - RUN, don’t walk from that person. They will blame you for everything that goes wrong in their life.

2. If you are marrying someone because you want them to make you happy and you believe they will, you will be sorely disappointed. If you are a woman you will probably divorce him. If you are a man, you will probably have an affair or three. Either way, you are going in for the completely wrong reason.

3. If you are marrying this person because you want to do everything you can to make them happy, you have a fighting chance, especially if they feel the same way.

23 posted on 04/26/2012 8:07:49 AM PDT by cuban leaf (Were doomed! Details at eleven.)
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To: Lazamataz
Thanks Laz, looks like my wife and I will need to go for more counseling:
24 posted on 04/26/2012 8:16:41 AM PDT by the_devils_advocate_666
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To: Thommas
Although I quibble with the word choice 'losers,' the observations and philosophy of this article seem spot on.

I prefer 'surrendering to self.' When I manage to do that, all of my relationships, God, wife, children, are much better, and I, as a result, am much happier. That being the case, why is it still so darn hard? I'm sorry for your loss.

10 years next month for us.

25 posted on 04/26/2012 8:18:30 AM PDT by tnlibertarian (I <3 PEJSWDTDSOPC)
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To: Baynative


26 posted on 04/26/2012 8:21:50 AM PDT by Shady (The undeniable truth of the Obama Administration...The numbers do not lie.)
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To: Baynative

LOL!!! 15 years for us, our second, I lost my first after 14 years to cancer....

27 posted on 04/26/2012 8:22:29 AM PDT by Shady (The undeniable truth of the Obama Administration...The numbers do not lie.)
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To: the_devils_advocate_666
Hey, no problem. I live to serve.

Now, if I can just get you to stop posting anti-marriage screeds, like the one above that I haven't quite gotten around to reading yet... well then, you will be 100% okay.

28 posted on 04/26/2012 8:23:15 AM PDT by Lazamataz (Admin Moderator refuses to let me hit it. --
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To: PapaNew

Yeah, funny how that doesn’t include assorted “except under these conditions” and “unless you’re part of this occupation” and “but not on Fridays” exemptions.

29 posted on 04/26/2012 8:28:07 AM PDT by ctdonath2 ($1 meals:
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To: cuban leaf

I always liked ‘the door test’ from “A Bronx Tale”.

30 posted on 04/26/2012 8:32:42 AM PDT by spel_grammer_an_punct_polise
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To: the_devils_advocate_666


31 posted on 04/26/2012 8:36:37 AM PDT by GOP Poet
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To: the_devils_advocate_666

No Sale. ;^)

32 posted on 04/26/2012 8:36:37 AM PDT by AnTiw1
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To: spel_grammer_an_punct_polise

My former wife decided that she’s rather ‘win’ after 27 years. So that’s over with.

My GF passed “The Door Test.” We’ve been together 2 years and it’s been great!

33 posted on 04/26/2012 8:40:43 AM PDT by Tallguy (It's all 'Fun and Games' until somebody loses an eye!)
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To: Lazamataz

The products of me and my loser are wondering why I am gasping for breath right now.......

34 posted on 04/26/2012 8:41:46 AM PDT by mockingbyrd
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To: Ingtar

32 years in January of 2013. He has been on a trip for a week, and I will be picking him up in a little while from the airport. I have missed him immensely.

35 posted on 04/26/2012 8:54:12 AM PDT by LibertarianLiz
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To: the_devils_advocate_666

What an utter load of cr@p. This is one reason why I’ll never darken the door of a “marriage” therapist.

36 posted on 04/26/2012 8:55:45 AM PDT by trapped_in_LA
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To: tnlibertarian

I think your approach is a good one.

For me, I simply keep in mind how fallible I am. I don’t have any problem doing that, because I screw up stuff so often that when something is wrong, the first suspect in my own mind is ME!

My wife and I just celebrated our 23rd Anniversary last weekend. We went out to dinner in the middle of a stretch where I worked 43 hours without sleep, and had to take a couple of hours to go out for our anniversary dinner. I literally stopped working 10 min before we left, changed into good clothes, and when we came home, I went right back to work. I was in the middle of a deadline and had to fire the only person who could have helped me just as the meat of the project hit...the work still had to get done somehow.

Thing was, my wife understood completely. She didn’t harass me, admonish me, pester me, nag me, sulk or anything like that.

She did everything in her power to help ME get through it. Unselfishly.

How I love that woman. I am blessed.

37 posted on 04/26/2012 9:02:46 AM PDT by rlmorel (A knife in the chest from a unapologetic liberal is preferable to a knife in the back from a RINO.)
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To: spel_grammer_an_punct_polise

What’s that?

38 posted on 04/26/2012 9:03:17 AM PDT by cuban leaf (Were doomed! Details at eleven.)
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To: spel_grammer_an_punct_polise
‘the door test’ from “A Bronx Tale”.

That was excellent. I always wondered how that got in the script because it was a standard practice I learned from high school friends in the 60's.

39 posted on 04/26/2012 9:07:43 AM PDT by Baynative (Please check this out -
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To: Tallguy

Had to look up “the door test”. Waddya know. I passed it all those years ago! 34 years this October.

40 posted on 04/26/2012 9:19:40 AM PDT by knittnmom (Save the earth! It's the only planet with chocolate!)
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