Let’s call this topic “spiritual.” It’s part of the marriage and family counseling process and there is no way to get away from it. Sometimes silver linings are so big they cover the whole cloud.
In order for your marriage to work, it helps to see that Life has meaning and that there is a way to make meaning out of yours. Furthermore, the awful experiences we go through have a good side to them. In some wild and weird kind of way they enrich us. Maybe they teach us a lesson that we absolutely needed to learn. Maybe they develop a part of our character that needed bolstering.
Here is a story that made the hair stand up on the back of my head. I heard it from the source myself many years ago. I was attending a Bar Mitzvah and the boy’s grandfather stood up to speak. He was from Russia. As a Jew during the outbreak of World War II, he was trying to evade the Russian army. He was afraid of experiencing anti-semitism if he were to be conscripted. Sure enough, he was caught and sent to Siberia. There, he was made to go without warm clothing or adequate food. He was mistreated and wondered if he would ever get out. His years there were a blessing as we learned that day at the Bar Mitzvah.
You see, he did get out, and when he made his way home, he learned that his entire family had been annihilated by the Nazis. He alone survived. Eventually, he was able to leave Russia; he made his way to the United States, and there, broken-hearted, he started a new family. He felt it was his obligation to participate in replenishing the Jewish people. Never did he realize, that decades later, he would, with tears in his eyes, be recounting his story at the Bar Mitzvah of his grandson from the second family that he started.
This goes beyond seeing a silver lining around a dark cloud. This is the cloud being silver. It was all good. You may disagree because such stories begin with pain. You may say that loss, grief, abuse, death, war, torture are no good and you are certainly right. I wouldn’t argue with that, but something incredibly good came out of the bad. If we have to suffer, isn’t it better to wring out something extraordinary from it if we can?
Examples Of Silver Linings in Your (Bad) Marriage
Let me come up with three illustrations and you can see where I’m going.
1. Suppose Mary Jo loses her husband. They were in love; they had a good marriage, but he was very sick. Several years later, she marries someone about whom she later feels she loves even more than she ever loved her first husband. What’s more, with him, she has several good children of whom she is proud.
2. Suppose Martin has had a father who put him down, criticized, and tormented him. He grows to adulthood unable to express his own needs and to stand up for himself. He is, in a way, crippled by his childhood. He meets Morgan, a charming and take-charge kind of woman. This seems to him like a good fit because she can be the strong half of the relationship. However, he soon learns that is not what was meant by “help-mate.” Each person needs to learn from the other how to acquire the missing characteristics. Sure enough, she is so dominating that he once again loses his voice, duplicating in the marriage the victim role of his family of origin. But there’s a twist: He goes to marriage counseling where he learns for the first time in his life to be assertive. He learns to stand up to his wife with gentle strength and certainty. Martin can look at this marriage and see that it wasn’t awful at all: It was the best thing that ever happened to him because if it weren’t for all his suffering, he would not have learned how to be assertive.
3. Lindy learned in childhood to keep everything in. That’s what her whole family did. No one told anyone what they felt, thought, wanted or needed. She married Gabe, a cheerful extrovert who had never met someone like that before. He was quite confused by Lindy and asked her again and again what she was thinking, what she wanted, what she felt. He felt alone in a marriage in which there seemed to be no communication. Finally, he asked her for a divorce, and for the first time, Lindy was forced to come out of her shell. She loved Gabe and did not want the marriage to end, but to keep it, she would have to make some big changes, kind of like the stretching exercises you do in yoga. Well, she stretched. What’s wrong with that? Was it hard? – Sure. But it was good for her and several years later, looking back, she could see that the moment of truth when she was compelled to shed her shell was the best thing that ever happened to her.
Now you see where I’m going. When you get the Big Picture of your life and the place the awfulness has in it, perhaps what seemed awful really wasn’t. Perhaps it is an opportunity for you to grow.