Tag Archives: love

“Coping” as a couple

I like this photo, because it was taken in a good moment. I can’t even say, a good day, because our ebbing and flowing these days does not even happen on a daily basis. I am constantly reminded that the photos we take and the posts we make are often made when we are at least good enough to reach out to the outside world. They are only part of the picture though, for me, for Kat, and I would assume for any of us. I can demonstrate some strength, Kat can offer some wisdom and insight… but that’s on the good days… I mean, in the good moments.

On the bad days In the bad moments, it is a nightmare for us. Kat’s need for emotional expression and care clashing with my need to have space, to do, and to NOT talk. There is a chasm there, enough for either of us to wonder (Kat out loud and me inside), is our marriage going to make it?!? More of this later… and note that I wouldn’t go as far as to really believe that there is good/bad in the difficulty of “coping” as a couple, but the shoe fits. What I can say is, it is agonizingly hard. I never thought I would say, “Fuck you!” to anyone, let alone my own wife. And I never imagined that work would be used so often in my marriage relationship. Well, the woman that Life sent my way to love (and to duke it out with) for all my days, or hers, was a glorious surprise and yes, we swear… these days, often. Life did not see fit to give either of us a life of daffodils and moonbeams, and this is our lot. But damn,  we love us some good flowers and a good full moon. We know, though, that we only love the flowers so much because we know that one day, they will not be. And we only love that moon so much because we know that it will wane and grow dark.

41s6e7oy8yl-_sx331_bo1204203200_“Coping” is used so much in the hospital, in therapy, in chaplaincy-talk and I don’t like it. It smacks of “getting by” or something passive that happens as a result of stress that we may or may not be able to make a conscious choice about. I like the term “adaptive strategies” rather than coping skills, as adapting and strategizing are active and intentional. I steal the term from Kenneth Doka and Terry Martin from a book that they wrote entitled Grieving Beyond Gender: Understanding the Ways Men and Women Mourn. I use this resource extensively and it has been so very helpful in my work with grief groups and supporting those in the hospital and in my spiritual direction sessions. Doka and Martin’s way of framing grief styles has given me the awareness that Kat and I, in all of our shitty annoying processes, are not better or worse in how we grieve, we are just different.

Without divulging their entire theory and getting into too many spoilers, Doka and Martin assert that grievers exist on a spectrum between intuitive and instrumental grief. Intuitive grievers are affective in their grief, feeling strong and powerful feelings, and needing to vocalize their grief process. Instrumental grievers are doers, needing time and space to process, think, and make meaning of their grief. They have emotions, but they are much less dynamic and vibrant than those of the intuitive. Men and women fall somewhere on this spectrum, tending more towards some blend of the two poles. It is far from gender-prescriptive, but men tend to fall more on the instrumental and women more towards intuitive.

The very distinct benefit of seeing grievers on a continuum is that there is affirmation for a less emotional style of grieving. For years, therapists, chaplains, and grief “specialists” have said that the only way to process grief is to feel all the feelings. Even in chaplaincy residency, I was expected to verbalize feelings, verbalize feelings, verbalize feelings… maybe much more than is within my capacity. There was benefit to it, but I am a chaplain, not Joe Smith who works his blue collar job and fishes and hunts in his free time. Many people, men AND women, are active and cognitive with their grief, even when they are unconscious that it is their grief that they are working through.

Just last night, to give a perfect example, I got home from my final grief group session in this series and said to Kat, “I can’t talk much right now. I need to sit with this last session and decompress from it.” She said a few minutes later, “You can’t really support me in the way I need to be supported, can you?”… because she wanted to vent and feel. My response was, “Well, I support you in many ways, don’t I? Can I be the support for all your feelings? Probably not. No more than you can get up and go to work for me, when I don’t even want to get out of bed. But I have to do that. I have to get my ass going and do it anyway.” So this morning, as I walked out the door at 6:15, I said to my sleeping wife, “Can you go to work for me today?”

“Sure,” she said as she rolled over and went back to sleep.

And this is how we do. It sucks to not get all your needs met from your spouse. But how many people when I ask how they are handling things as a couple (insert “coping”) say, “Not good. Really not good…” They don’t know why, though, that’s the thing. I just want to say, come to my grief group. It will help. Kat and I, as much as it pains us, know that this is just going to hurt. It sucks. It really fucking sucks. But we do the best we can. In our worst moments, we can’t even talk to each other. In our best moments, we hold each other. And most days somewhere in between, we ask all the unanswerable questions, swear cry and talk, and at least sit next to each other on the couch while we are on our smart phones.

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If God is Love… where does fear fit in?

I’m reading this book, which our church is reading for Lent – If God is Love: Rediscovering Grace in an Ungracious world. It’s a jarring book, as it would probably be considered heresy in all the churches I have ever been a part of in the past (these blessed Presbyterians). The authors’ main premise is that God loves universally, saves universally, and we have done wrong to start with fear as a way of introducing God and salvation to people. While I don’t end in the same place, that being universal salvation, I do have a sense that God loves universally… and that fear is not something that is of God.

The issues that the authors raise… those regarding fear, speak volumes to me. They write of manipulation and a tendency to “evangelize” most effectively with those who have already grown up in environments of fear or abuse. As these people are already afraid or insecure, the notion of hell and judgment or a God who is ready to strike us down hits them strongly and they turn to God even more readily. No one wants to be struck down or burned for all of eternity… especially when life is a fearful thing already. In my understanding, this manipulation is not something Jesus exemplified. It is not the God I know and experience daily.

70453844_7ce7c1479a_o.jpgSo the issue of fear is what has struck the greatest chord. I am under the impression that more people live in fear than I can possibly conceive. Fear is everywhere, and most only know to respond fearfully in return. It is in our government, in our churches, in our families, in our selves. I have tasted it so strongly as I have been growing up. Granted, I feel a progression of less fear as those close to me become increasingly reconciled. This I thank God for. To live in love is not to fear. Right? I suppose I can rest in this movement away from fear that I am experiencing… but there is something missing. I guess I miss the acknowledgment from those close to me that the fear existed. I need to hear this. I need to hear people say, “Yah, I felt that fear, too. I still feel that fear… it effects me every day.” I guess that’s why I am sending this.

I have long begun refusing to acknowledge or accept pressure through fear… but whether it was just me and my own perceptions, or whether it had something to do with the story that we all come from… I grew up with a strong sense of fear. I knew that if I did the right thing… or at least didn’t get caught for doing the wrong thing (or things that I didn’t even think were wrong, but other people thought they were)… if I stayed out of trouble, I was OK with people in authority. Everyone was happy. BUT… BUT… if I got caught doing the wrong thing (and I use those words intentionally), I was in serious trouble. I don’t need to mention what the trouble looked like, because it came in all sorts of different ways, but it was there. Trouble. And this amounts to fear. I was, and really still am, afraid. I would say some of us have been crippled by this at times. Some just wounded. I have to say, I have a limp. This I know. It is with me… and I want more than anything to get out of it… but the fear is there. I guess this is my acknowledgment.

So I guess my question in the subject of this email stands… If God is love, where does fear fit in? Am I imagining it… or is it really something never to be used for manipulation, control, discipline, or anything else? To what extent does the damage of manipulation through fear go? Thoughts?

Leave your cell phone on in church… or else!!

OK, this video is unbelievable! I really hope that our “churches” can avoid this type of “love.” Personally, and maybe it is an emerging church thing, I say leave those cell phones on! And let the kids run around… I would hate for us to think that we need to set our lives aside when we gather together. Let’s be real, right?