“Opposites Attract” has become a truism about marriage and intimate relationships. Why, then, are we, in Transition USA, so surprised to find that some of us, who see a dramatically different future looming, have partners who aren’t so sure?
The pain and frustration I've heard from contributors to my Peak Oil Blues blog is most acute in this area: marital strife.
But I've become very unsettled about the fretting and effort being devoted to “getting your spouse on board" in our community. I kept asking myself: "If you didn't have a “shotgun wedding,” do you really need to shanghai your partner in order to“get them on board?”" And what will you have after you talk them onto the ship, but a resentful captive?
If I were the Skeptical Spouse, I'd never agree to go to a workshop that promised my husband he could "get me on board." I'd feel weird about him going, too.
Be honest, doesn't that sound a bit cultish to you?
And what's the flier going to say other than:
"Skeptical Spouse: YOU ARE THE PROBLEM."
Oh, that would grab me, if I were reading it. And if our goal is to "get them on board," how else could we frame it and still be sincere?
I'd have quite a few questions for my Dear Husband if I were the Skeptical Spouse:
Could it be that our own attempts to "convince" our spouses is playing out the other side of our own* ambivalence?
We say we want to reach our partners, connect to them, but too often it becomes a lecture instead of a conversation. Recognize yourself here?
But what do we really know that's worth destroying our marriage over? Did you find a person so stubborn, so ignorant, so one-sided, so selfish, that you decided they were the perfect mate for you? Or did they turn into that person, after their years of partnering with you? (Don't growl at me!)
If you didn't have a “shotgun wedding,” do you really need to shanghai your partner to “get them on board”?
It's not the way anyone wants it, but when polarized positions start, it's hard to stop it.
Let’s face it. Love is the capacity to say “Maybe…” when you disagree. What's the fun in that when you have all the facts and they have none? And don't feel they need any?
Whether or not we feel a deep certainty, what we most need to share isn’t our faith, but our feelings and no, not with people in chat rooms and meetings who agree with us: with our spouses. You may be sure TEOTWAWKI is coming, but the wild-card is “When?”
Isn't that a big wild-card?
And what will be the sign you take that it has progressed far enough for...? We need our partner before some unspecified collapse happens, and that fact is undeniable (if a bit difficult to pin down precisely...)
Given everything that has happened over the last two weeks, I'm not sure of anything, anymore, are you?
The language we use to describe this phenomenon ("When our spouse is not on board") is all wrong. It implies a "them" and "us," instead of a couple in pain, at odds, trying to relate. You blow up somebody's future (the Skeptical Spouse), and you take away quite a bit from them. Have you grieved together? Have we considered meetings for the Skeptical Spouses where they get to complain about us?
The couples I want to reach love each other and want to stay together, to get closer, and work towards a common goal—with a common purpose. As a clinical psychologist who works professionally with “battling couples,” I'm specifically focusing on what happens when marriages get into trouble, and how they mend.
There are issues that are unique to a couple where each sees a radically different future but one thing, I'll guarantee you, is still the same: You can't know anything about the marriage by listening to only one partner describe it.
One of the things I never take too seriously is the first phone call for marital therapy, when one spouse describes what's wrong (which is usually the other spouse (!)) I've yet to meet the person they've described. I love to work with intimate relationships because they are so full of paradox. If you love paradox, become a couples and sex therapist like me. Couples always get themselves into the most complicated sexual paradoxes and then can't find their way out! No surprise there!
The themes in the Doomer/Skeptic marriages are just as interesting and paradoxical. That's what makes them so great to think about and write about. Like a delicate gold necklace that's tangled, they never get snagged in the same way, and they take patience to straighten out. Lots and lots of patience, and a good magnifying glass.
I believe that a community starts with a strong family and I know one person can't do it all. A strong family explores shared, and common ground and tries to develop a deeper respect for why they got together in the first place, in order to figure out how they got to this polarized place. It is hard to imagine how this rapprochement will happen unless one “lightens up” and the other “gets serious.”
"You go first."
That's what makes it a stand-off.
So I'm writing a book "that should work pretty good most of the time" (to quote a friend) for both the "Doomer," who believe we need a fast power-down and the "Skeptic" who believes we need a tropical vacation. I'll be inviting people to step away from the struggle, to slow down, open up, and explore why anyone stays in an intimate relationship, (they are all so tough). I'm not going to be convincing anyone of anything, and I won't tell you how to do it either.
When it's finished, I want the book to be funny. I want a book that both partners can read out loud and laugh together. I want both sides to be able to see themselves in it, and take each other a little less seriously, or a little more seriously, as the case may be. I've use lots of case histories, and that's always eye-opening.
My working titled is called: “I Can’t Believe You Actually Think That!” A Couple’s Guide to Finding Common Ground about Peak Oil, Climate Catastrophe, and Economic Hard Times, which sort of captures the overall tone of a lot of conversations between a lot of Doomers and Skeptics.
It won't be coming out for a couple of months, and this isn't the place to advertise it, but I just wanted to give you a heads up that Transition US gets a break in the cost before it gets published. I'm not sure where else on this site to tell you that.
You can check out my site Peak Oil Blues if you are interested.
And I'm also looking for 8 readers/editors, to review it. Please, write better than I do, particularly in grammar, before you volunteer. I could use the help, so just send me an email here. Sorry, absolutely no money will be paid to those readers, so do it only if you like to read and correct other people's stuff.
I'll continue to collect stories right up until it goes to final press, so if you'd like to write to me, I'm happy to respond.
I'll also publish segments here, if people are interested. Let me know by leaving a comment below.
For those of you who don't know me, I've been kicking around Peak Oil for the last 5 years, collecting letters from people around the world who send me stories about their initial reactions to the 3E's and how they've changed their lives as a result of it. I embrace the term "Doomer" affectionately, and not as an offense to anyone.
Kathy McMahon, Psy.D.
"The Peak Shrink"
* Nothing in this post should be construed as addressing the reader or his/her relationship directly. In your case, your spouse really is an SOB that can't be reasoned with. I'm talking to everybody else...