You’ve probably read at least a half-a- dozen articles I’ve written that state you don’t marry someone by accident, and you get who you are. Even more, that each of you has what I term a distance quotient, that determines how close you allow yourself to get to another person or permit someone to get close to you. Most of you, however, are blind to what your quotient is. As a result, you go through life thinking, “I want love, closeness, warmth and nurturance, but my spouse is the ice queen or king. No matter how much I try, it’s not enough and, after years of trying, I’m ready to call it quits.”
A decade later you’re either still there with the same person and the same complaints, or you divorce because it’s now relatively acceptable in our society. But, suffice to say, you discover after the honeymoon period is over, you coupled with another person who is equally unable to be close. Why? Despite their validity, your complaints are only the facts. They’re not your problem.
People bring their problems with them to their relationships. Further, if and when there is a third person involved in your divorce, you’re apt to think, “This proves I’m not the problem. I’m experiencing closeness now that I never ever felt before.” But remember, an affair and/or a honeymoon is different from a marriage. It’s similar to borrowing your friend’s car. You drive it with more caution and care than you do your own, at least in the beginning.
I know this is a hard notion to swallow. But, please think about it. Your first, second or even third spouse is someone you picked out because, unconsciously, you chose another person with the same distance quotient as yourself. You are the key person in any relationship you form. So, you must change your quotient and your behavior to determine if your present partner can change or to ensure any future partner will share your new quotient. However, before you start to defend yourself, I beg you to please read the rest of this article with an open mind and a genuine desire for growth.
To support my thoughts regarding a distance quotient, I’d like to share what a patient told me after returning from a trip out of the country. He and his spouse had a wonderful time. They saw sites they had dreamed about, ate foods they had never been aware of and interacted with people of vastly different cultures. Essentially, they took the opportunity to expose themselves to a new world.
In his words, “Something really strange occurred during our trip. My wife was entirely different from the way she normally is. She was warm, close and pleasant. She held my hand in public. She spontaneously hugged and embraced me. It was everything I always wanted, but after a while I began to feel uncomfortable. I couldn’t breathe and I felt like she was smothering me. It was awkward and disturbing, but I didn’t tell her because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings.
“Then, at a small airport in Thailand, she went to get some water. She bought two bottles at an exorbitant price and handed me one of them saying, ‘I thought you’d want this.’ It’s crazy, because the cost of that water was insignificant in so far as the trip was concerned, but I flew into a rage and heard myself shouting, ‘Why would you spend that much money? One bottle would have been enough.’ Instead, I should have said, ‘Ann, thank you so very much for the water. I really appreciate you being considerate and thinking about me.’
“You know, she must have learned an awful lot in therapy, because she didn’t get angry or tell me where I could shove the bottle. Because, she sat down and read her magazine, and I wanted to crawl under my seat. We never discussed the incident again, but it bothered me ever since. She was getting too close for comfort. I recall you once asking ‘if I really wanted as much love and warmth as I claim, why did I marry a woman I described as cold, self-centered and distant?’ Then, you told me, because I was just as frightened of trusting emotionally as she. I didn’t believe you then, because I knew how much I hurt when she rejects me. Now I feel just like the lady in your lamb chop story.”
Let me reiterate that story. A woman wanted to surprise her husband with his favorite meal and went to a butcher shop for several racks of lamb. The butcher said he was out of them. She inquired how much they were and he said $2 a pound. She went to another shop and asked the proprietor for the same thing. He showed her two beautiful racks of lamb perfectly trimmed and ready for the oven. She said, “I’ll take them. How much are they?” He replied, “$4 a pound.” “The butcher down the street has them for $2 a pound,” she said. “Why didn’t you buy them?” he questioned. “They’re out of them,” she said. He responded, “When I’m out of them I sell them for a $1.50 a pound.”
I’m sure you understand the moral of the story. When love isn’t available, you want it at any price. When it is, you find something wrong with it. The problem isn’t necessarily the price of love; it’s the fear of it. When or if you can accept this, you’ll stop looking at and blaming your partner. You will look at yourself and say “I know part of me wants to be loved, but I recognize that I’m scared when it’s potentially available.”
If this sounds even remotely familiar, know you’re not alone. More individuals than you can imagine stay together and blame each other for the distance they experience, while they alternately push their partners away. Neither realizes the behavior they demonstrate stems from a desperate fear inside – that if they let their guard down and open themself to love, they’ll be hurt or rejected the way they were as a child. Fortunately, you can change this behavior, though you must first recognize and own your distance quotient. Doing so will enable you to focus on and resolve the only problem you can fix – the one in you.