George and his wife, Cindy, came to see me for an intervention. They were both unhappy, individually and in their marriage. She was especially wounded from a lifetime of hearing that she was worthless, and had emotionally detached completely from him and their four children. I spent nearly the entire three days with her, simply loving her and helping her to see how gloriously worthwhile she was.
George was obviously feeling a bit slighted by the relative lack of attention, but I explained that although the ideal in marriage is two people being complete partners, the truth was that Cindy was incapable of being a partner at that point. She needed considerable healing individually before she could even begin to be a partner.
Because of her emotionally depleted and wounded state, I suggested that for the next month or so, she minimize or eliminate as many situations as possible where she might feel obligated to care for other people. Why? Because she had none to give, and the obligations would only create more stress and wounding. She would need more help with her children from George and other relatives. She would not be having sex with George. She needed healing, as though she were recuperating in a hospital. We don’t ask people in ICU (intensive care unit) to unload groceries from the car or mow the lawn.
George persisted in his disappointment at the notion that Cindy had no responsibility to love him, as well as his being excluded from her healing process.
“George,” I said, “Cindy simply CANNOT love you at this point. She’s too wounded, and more demands on her will serve only to break her. She’s in the hospital with a heart attack. You are wounded also, but her condition must be addressed before she can do anything about yours. I’ll be working with both of you individually, not together. There are no double beds in ICU.”
George chose to trust me, and within DAYS he said, “It’s like she’s a different woman. Sure, I would like to be more involved in her life right now, but she’s actually smiling for the first time in many months. And the kids are enjoying being around her, which has not been the case for a long time.”
“And when she’s ready,” I said, “she’ll turn that smiling face to you and begin the process of learning to be your partner. I don’t know how long you’ll have to wait, but it will be worth it. And you’re not just waiting around passively. You’re doing more than you know. You’re supporting her and being happy for her, and she can feel that.”
It’s very common in relationships that one partner is quite incapable of participating in loving until he or she has healed considerably as an individual. While this might seem burdensome to the other partner—as with George—we have to deal with conditions as they are, not as we wish them to be. And the less wounded partner can still find all the love her or she needs, as George did with me.
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