My son has a passion for timepieces. As a five-year-old boy he “stole” one of his grandfather’s watches. A year later I found it under his mattress. Today he pursues his passion in a more conventional manner, and his pleasure in how time is tracked through beauty and ingenuity is something I share with him. I watch the passage of time through the viewfinder of a sixty-minute hour as I sit with my couples. Together we track time and emotion as it impacts on their shared lives.
Time is everything. All we do has the background hum of the ticking clock of life – especially the shared life. Couples speak of years lost in unhappiness; pushing problems to a future where they will get better just because … somehow they will. To a “time” when there is time to address them. Time is factored in a subjective and magical fashion. It will hold still or fly because we will it so. A wonderful curative – like the latest purgative drug on the market.
As I type this I am surrounded by time pieces: my cell phone to the left of me; the two clocks in front of me, both battery powered, though one is Deco vintage with its mechanism updated; the vintage watch on my wrist, a gift from my son, with an anodyne face. Even the land line portable set on my desk, outmoded and shrieking, has a time component both on the screen and in the throaty voicemail lady.
Given the omnipresent reminder of time – and oh yes – my desktop screen reminds me of the passage of the seconds, minutes and hours of this writing process – how come couples let time go by without recognizing that, like the water in a bathtub, even if you don’t pull the plug, the water will evaporate and eventually your tub will be dry, though it is likely to leave a film of dirty soap around the sides?
I hear the answers to my rhetorical question. “We were so busy raising the kids. Making ends meet. Hoping things would change.” But time doesn’t change anything, just age and wear. Without your permission, time moves us into the future with no regard for what it might be dragging along in its wake.
How does this happen? Individuals have characteristic mechanisms for coping with disharmony, dissatisfaction, disappointment, disconnection and all the other dis words (Latin prefix meaning “apart,” “asunder,” “away,” “utterly,” or having a privative, negative, or reversing force (see de-, un-2. ).) Some folks deny the pain; some folks operate from a magical belief system that it will go away – just sprinkle some fairy dust or kick your heels twice. Some folks confront their pain and look for solutions. That last group of individuals are most likely to have a chance at saving a marriage. And one of the tools to utilize in this effort is Time! Tracking it, noting it and sharing the awareness of its passage and impact with your spouse or partner.
There is no great depth to this post. It is merely a recommendation to use the passage of time as a positive tool to measure the need to take action. Moments of unhappiness and alienation in a relationship need to be set against the backdrop of the passage of time to evaluate the seriousness of the situation. Couples when questioned in a session as to how long one or both of them have felt disturbed by their interactions, their increased distance or growing intervals between fight and make up, usually describe not days, but months and years. Months is already a wakeup call. Years! Ten years, five years, three years, twenty-five years. Two years. No matter. Too long.
Much like our immune system, where the longer an untreated virus or bacteria inhabits our bodies, the ability to fight it weakens, so our Coupledom housing unhappiness for years will be a weakened fortress unable to stand up to the fight for survival.
Mark time. It may save your marriage. Too long and too late will be too sad for everyone.
Just a tip. Show this to the denying member of your Coupledom. There is always one.
©Jill Edelman, M.S.W., L.C.S.W., 2017