What Can Still Happen After 45 Years of Marriage (Keep Listening!)
It’s stunning, what creating a special time, place, and occasion can do to help people focus.
In the held space of a THJ Experience, participants seem primed to pay particular attention. A single line can shine a prism on the whole world of a relationship — and, for that very reason, it can also contain new light for that relationship. In THE HUMAN JOURNEY® Experience, a few words can just pop out. In an instant, everyone recognizes that’s “it,” the roadmap ahead for the relationship, even in a present that feels completely in flux.
I once read we have a likelihood only slightly better than chance of predicting correctly what our family members might say in a new situation. The Newlywed Game, that popular television game show that ran on and off for more than 50 years, made much of this. It turns out married couples are not intimate enough to know just about everything about their spouse! On the show, sometimes they did, and — very often — they didn’t.
And that may not improve much over time. It’s a shock to discover that the person you thought you knew — that very common phrase among spouses who are contemplating or have been asked for a divorce — makes decisions on a very different basis than you thought possible, after one year together, 10, or 50.
Or that the child who came out of your very body, who seemed outwardly to reject every religious value you’d tried so hard to teach him, actually has an inner life that, to your surprise, sounds rather like your own.
But with THE HUMAN JOURNEY®, a profound understanding of what makes a family member tick comes out — the inner life that they never realized you didn’t know, or had perhaps thought you’d never accept.
And the benefit that understanding confers for the family as whole is a lasting one. You hear them afresh – and can re-commit to them to sustain hard times.
THE HUMAN JOURNEY® with a Family in the Pandemic’s Flux
Mary and Edward had been married 45 years when they, along with Nick and Patty, their older son and daughter-in-law, and their daughter Andrea, who was returning in her 30s to college, sat down with our Conductor to participate in THE HUMAN JOURNEY®, perhaps skeptical that they might gain anything that might help them grow as a family in 2020.
Pandemic conditions made it not an easy time for anyone. Mary had lost her job as an administrator at a local law firm; Edward was unused to the impingement on his privacy as his rather-older-than-traditional-college-aged daughter returned home to pursue her coursework via Zoom. Finally, Edward felt, the kids had flown the nest and he was able to spread out his computer- and gadget-assembly hobbies in her former bedroom; with Andrea’s return, he felt he had one more woman in the house judging how he spent his downtime.
And all were worried about Mary’s mother, in her late 80s, living a thousand miles away. Though Natalie was a feisty, spirited woman, they weren’t going to be able to check in on her till a vaccine would come out if they wanted to keep her safe, much less themselves.
On some level, Mary and Edward’s marriage was traditional. If they disagreed, he would do something that put her down, more or less subtly. Rather than suffer further humiliation, Mary would back away and withdraw into herself. Edward would lord his triumph over her. The pattern made both kids, Nick and Andrea, sick.
“I Thought I Knew What You Meant, and Then I Stopped Listening”
In THE HUMAN JOURNEY®, participants share, in a variety of ways, how their lives have taken shape. At a critical moment in the THJ Experience, each person hears another participant’s reflection about the meaning of one of those sharings for her.
It was Edward’s turn to reflect for Mary. It won’t surprise you that Edward was unable to reflect on Mary’s experience on her own terms. Instead, he had “phoned in” his listening. But THE HUMAN JOURNEY’s structure allowed Mary to define her own experience.
Our Conductor told us what happened: “Mary let Edward know, as politely as she could, that, while his sense of her feeling was correct, his idea about its meaning was not. She was standing up for herself. He had listened selectively, highlighting familiar parts of her family history without picking up on a very painful insight that working with the prompt had elicited for her.”
The “kids” were astonished hearing their mother stand up for herself … and by what their father said next.
The One-Liner That Told the Whole Story
The line told the whole story. How easy it is to treat one’s longtime spouse as finished goods. To go to sleep on the relationship itself, especially in a marriage 45 years in the making. To imagine the future as simply an extension of the past.
In THE HUMAN JOURNEY®, the joyful, connected future we move groups toward is not necessarily a predictable extension of the past. Rather, it is a future of their highest intentions. It acknowledges where they have been while structuring their growing commitments for the future.
How beneficial for families who somehow have been unable to hold a vision of the future in which:
They can still be strong as a unit, even without their beloved parent.
They can support their family member in recovery with actions that help on his terms rather than enable him; or
They reckon with a life-altering change in their mobility or memory to design a future that can hold it all, both the more and the less pleasant.
Join us to provide this transformational experience for families undergoing transition and loss. You’ll bring them a deeper sense of commitment and increased ability to weather the life’s changes.
Lindsay Braman’s example can open your mind about what sorts of both joy and utility you can create, simply by letting your own gifts out of the closet and using them in your work, in recognizing that, if a therapist/doodler can connect two passions, so can you.
When you’re in pain, it’s hard to think of anything else. But even in the midst of being laid up with a bad back or during that excruciating moment after surgery when you realize that, no, it isn’t that the operation was a breeze, it’s just that you had really good painkillers, there are almost always parts of you that do feel well: they’re just a bit harder to access. Even when everything is going smoothly.
What the lorgnette is to glasses, THE HUMAN JOURNEY is to listening. Not only do we help families listen to each other at a moments of intense change due to serious illness, end of life, bereavement, or other major life transition, but we help family members perceive that they are being heard.
We’re ready for ya. All handy in its front pocket, THE HUMAN JOURNEY® has all the ways to meet family members right where they are. We have a way to meet people who don’t want to talk about feelings. We have a way to meet people who would rather express something silently, with a facial expression, a gesture, or a stance, than with telling or sharing.
So, Who’s the Father?” isn’t exactly what a person who’s expecting wants to hear. It can feel like an accusation, like an invasion of privacy, or like a completely irrelevant question, depending on one’s method of conception, key relationships, or plan for childrearing. Even in days when there were fewer methods for conceiving a child or for avenues for getting one to adulthood, Emily Post might have advised just to stick with a hearty congratulations.