My wife is an attorney and an activist, known and loved for her devotion to creating social change. I am proud of her, but as her social currency rises, our relationship suffers. She is always working. We have three children she hardly sees. We rarely have sex, and when we do, it’s mechanical, and she’s off to sleep or back to work. When I talk to her about these problems, I end up feeling like I’m selfish because her work is so important. Should we divorce? Please help.
Earlier this year, I attended a lecture in Los Angeles by poet David Whyte. While addressing a different topic, he casually mentioned that each of us is invited into three marriages in modern life: personal, career and romantic. He did not elaborate much, so my imagination was free to roam. Here is how I would define the three-marriages concept: The first marriage is internal. It is the spiritual maturity that results from accepting that our childhood wounds or adult insecurities are nothing to fear or be ashamed of. They’re normal; everyone has them to some degree. Through the internal marriage, we realize that we are lovable and worthy just as we are. This acceptance transforms us so that we are self-confident and genuine, instead of self-absorbed and self-conscious.
The second marriage is to our careers. We give of our talents and skills, and, in return, we receive remuneration. This is an equal exchange, and through this experience we learn how to interact in the community.
The third marriage takes place when you make a lifelong romantic commitment with another person. Through the intimacy of this relationship, you learn how to love someone even when he or she is difficult, annoying and imperfect. This is the person with whom you are willing to be vulnerable, sharing your hopes, dreams, feelings and fears. Trouble occurs when someone is consistently attentive to only one or two of these marriages. Each of them requires—and deserves—our honesty, trust, commitment and love.
You are experiencing difficulty in your relationship because your wife has divorced herself, emotionally, from her internal marriage and from her marriage to you. The solution is not a literal divorce (or labeling yourself as selfish; you’re not), but an investigation of why she compulsively thrusts her life into imbalance. Only she can answer that question, but she will need support from you and from a spiritual director to find out.
I’m 15, and I have a friend I’ll call Karly. Her parents divorced after Karly told her mom that her dad’s best friend molested her. Karly handles it all and doesn’t even need counseling anymore. But yesterday, I realized that whenever we come back from the mall, Karly has something new that I didn’t see her pay for. She has lots of cash. Should I say something? She’s cool, and she’s been through a lot. I don’t want to upset her or lose her friendship.
Is it more important to be liked or to learn how to really love? Genuine love includes challenge. That means if you care deeply about Karly, you will confront her destructive behavior, even if it means upsetting her or losing her friendship. Most teen shoplifters steal cool stuff to fit in or because they are acting out (like trying to get back at a parent who has hurt them). Karly needs therapy to process her feelings about the trauma of molestation and her parents’ divorce. She may even believe that the divorce is her fault. So, confront Karly and then ask an adult that you trust to talk to Karly’s mom. Also, be willing to stop shopping with Karly. If she is ever arrested for shoplifting when you are together, you may be under suspicion, too.