Glastonbury CT is one of those unusual British towns where people talk about marriage counseling. I was recently there for a cycling holiday, and several passersby stopped me to ask what my views are on marriage counseling. It turns out that Glastonbury is quite a socially liberal town, and you can see why lots of people associate it with marriage counseling. When we were touring the Cotswolds one day, I was wandering around in the market place, and a “Cleaning Lady” stopped to have a word with me. I had previously mentioned in an article about the spiritual aspect of marriage, and this lady told me that she had suffered from abuse at the hands of her stepfather.
She told me that although she was raised to be a respectable and caring family woman, and had never experienced any violence towards anyone, she had seen enough abuse to know that love could not conquer hatred. The ‘Cleaning Lady’ told me that although she had dedicated her life to her stepfather, and went to formal school, that she had never been able to love him back. “I just could not face the fact that he would never come back to me,” she said sadly. “I loved him, but he just didn’t love me back.” This experience made her realise that although love was important, unconditional love from a partner could not be the basis of a human relationship.
She confessed that although she had seen good therapists and counsellors during her time as a patient in a mental health centre, none of them had been able to help her. “I thought that what I had inside myself could not be healed by talking to anyone, including a therapist who specialized in marriage counseling.” This led her to attend a marriage counseling session for the first time. Fortunately, she found a genuinely warm person who really listened to her concerns and recommendations, which were vital to healing. As a result of the initial ‘counseling experience’ which led her to believe that marriage counseling was the best thing for her stepfather, Marta saved her relationship with her stepfather.
The lesson that Stepmother needed to learn was that love could not be based on anything except love from the giver. This is why there is no reason for us to base our feelings on anything but our giver. If we fall in love with someone from our past, and our stepfather does not love us anymore, it is not because we are lacking love in our own lives; it is because we have forgotten how important he was to us. In this respect, marriage counseling was the perfect solution, since it helped Stepmother and Stepfather discover new possibilities for their relationship.
Marta did not need to wait long to see results from her first marriage counselling. She realised that the time had come for her to take control over her destiny and that she wanted to do what was right for her family. By speaking to several people who had been through similar situations as hers, Marta realised that she too had been led down a path that led her towards a dead end. But by seeking out other options, by speaking to the right people and by showing an interest in the lives of others, Marta began to turn things around in her marriage.
It was not easy, of course. Marta was forced to face up to the reality that although she loved her stepmother, she could not see the good that had gone before. This does not mean that Stepmother was not an excellent influence on Marta; it simply meant that in order to save her marriage, she had to look beyond her immediate loved ones. This, and speaking frankly to one another, brought the two stepmothers closer together, realizing that the love that they shared had nothing to do with each other and everything to do with family. And after a short time, Marta’s marriage to her stepfather was back on track.