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Read Letter

Blast From The Past

My dear Jil, I keep telling you to leave this past alone, to get away from it as fast and as much as you can. If you don’t leave the pain of the past where it belongs, you’ll damage your marriage and your future. You won’t be able to relate well with your husband, and you’ll punish him for the sins of your father. Lots of marriages have broken up not because of present tense but of past participle. And you’re in a losing position here. The man that conditioned your worldview is long gone! You’re fighting a dead man. How can you win?

Bitterness from youth is so powerful it has the capacity to wreck a home and totally splinter a marriage. You’ll never be happy, you’ll always be trying to make a point, to prove a point. It’s not healthy. You’ll be unyielding and ungiving. What a bad combination in marriage. It’s why I ask you to forgive. Forgiveness has nothing to do with the other party. It’s all about you. Forgiveness is not about whether someone deserves forgiveness. Deservability of forgiveness has nothing to do with the desirability of forgiveness. Think about it: we don’t deserve forgiveness yet God forgives us. No amount of sorry can atone for some of the terrible stuff we’ve done, yet God forgives. Because he’s himself. So it’s not about whether the offending party atones, or properly atones for the pain he’s caused. It’s about not carrying a wrecking ball into your marriage. It’s about being wise. It’s about being you.

If you really want to be smart, study what’s going on around you. Solomon calls that street-smartness. Wisdom walks on the street. Study some of the most difficult people you know. You’ll discover most of them are reacting to their past. Some women have vowed their husband will never treat them the way their dad treated their mum, and irrespective of who they marry – one size fits all. All men are the same! The husband is already guilty of a crime he hasn’t even had a chance to commit. He hasn’t even met her not to talk of proposing, not to talk of marriage. But he’s as guilty as dad! He’s an enemy combatant. He has guilt credited to his account in advance, before introduction and courtship. Defenses are put up; little mistakes are exaggerated, amplified beyond measure. Those defenses block intimacy. And the amazing thing is, it affects relationship with the kids as well. Everybody will put up with it for some time. That’s characterisation. But at some point everyone will get tired. There’s a limit to human elasticity. There’s a limit to the pain men can absorb. That’s when everyone decides to call the bluff. Of course they’re then accused of conspiracy! Is this the kind of marriage you want? A marriage full of antiquated pain and anger?

And what’s the quality of relationship you want with your children? Nursed and incubated pain produces clinical depression. It’s a matter of time before you begin to lash out. When we nurse pain from the past it eats deep into us. But the wound is hidden from view. We become hardened, distorting affection, constantly accusing our partner to acquire control and exercise dominion. You’ve often spoken to me about wanting a home – the home you never had. But a home can’t exist without love. A house can exist without love, but not a home. It can’t exist without love. It’s the love in a home that makes a home a home. Otherwise you and your spouse are cohabitants of a house. And marriage is not worth it without essential love and happiness. What’s the point really? Take out the love and you have a synthetic marriage that is everything but marriage in the true sense. It’s the love in a home that makes the family gather in the kitchen to gist and discuss. It’s the love in a home that makes a meal around the dining table pleasurable.

When marriage becomes a mere duty without affection it brings sadness, hardness and depression. When dutifulness in a marriage is propelled by lovelessness it produces a pain in the guts – a peculiar thud. We can only attempt to describe the pain. The incompetence of human language leaves us at that sorry pass. Imagine you want something much better than what you have but you know you can’t have it. It’s just out of reach however you strain, though your finger brushes against it each time you lunge. There’s nothing you can do to attain it because that capacity somehow lies in another person. And that other person is stuck in the past, like a car hopelessly stuck in mud. It’s like seeing yourself approaching death in slow motion and there’s nothing you can do. You’re watching the time lapse, you know you’re going down, you will to do something but the capacity is outside of you.

Importing baggage from the past into a marriage is a slow motion killing of the other party. And some people bring trailer loads of baggage into marriage. Such people just get angry. They must have their way. They must have their wants. Their views must be adopted. Yet what they truly want will continue to elude them as long as they manage the warehouse full of baggage. Many times they’re not bad people. It’s just that the baggage from the past colours them so much. At some point the other party will reluctantly arrive at the painful conclusion that his or her spouse is a difficult human. Leave the past be. You have a chance to create a wonderful future, and a wonderful home. Don’t blow it. You can’t be unbending, unforgiving and emotionally unyielding in a marriage. The marriage will break. It’s actually some form of self-centeredness. It’s all about you, has to be all about you.

And so you enforce an autocratic disposition against your husband and children. It’s a matter of time before the children begin to get wise, and begin to keep their inner distances. A good marriage is such a beautiful thing it’s worth seeking after. What an assurance love gives.

Your mentor, LA

© Leke Alder |

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