An Emotional Affair Meets Financial Infidelity: Part 2. Pioneers Create their Successful Marriage
Part 2: Pioneers Have to Invent a Successful Marriage Lacking a Model from their Parents
Our meetings continued. Steve’s tone mellowed and he became less self-righteous. Carey sat forward on the sofa and her tone became more assertive. With joy she announced her new job. Her former boss now worked for a different company. When she phoned him, he eagerly employed her.
“I feel appreciated again!” Her tone bubbled with excitement.
With new confidence, Carey spoke what she’d been holding in. “I hate your smoking pot,” she said to Steve. “It’s not just against the law–it makes our house stink!”
“I’ve tried not to use it,” he answered, “but nothing else relaxes me. When I first get home, I just need a couple puffs. When I quit I get panicky.”
“What’s your fear come from?” I asked.
He fell silent. His eyes gazed to the right as if he were reviewing his past. “My parents never married. My mother gave birth to me when she was eighteen. When she was twenty, my father left her. He abandoned me too. He’s never contacted me. I never knew him.”
“Sounds very painful.” I shook my head.
“My mother had to work and left me with her parents, who lived with us. My grandmother was passive and uninvolved, but my grandfather looked after me. I’m glad I had him.” He shared his story in layers of pain like peeling an onion.
“What was your mother like?”
“Every night, she came home and locked herself in her bedroom.”
“That must have hurt.”
“Yeah, it did. But she did do some good things. She prepared me to be on my own. She got me a second-hand bicycle when I was seven and told me to get a job delivering newspapers. ‘You’d better save your money,’ she said. By the time I was seventeen I’d saved seven-thousand dollars.”
“That’s when she left.”
“What do you mean she left?”
His face turned pale. “She ran away! That was it! Just like my father!” His pain was palpable beneath his composure. My stomach clinched as I pictured this lonely young man.
“What’d you do?”
“I left and came to Florida. I knew how to look after myself and my finances.” His voice grew bolder. “I was the first member of my family to get a college education. I studied business at UCF.”
“Good for you.” I smiled. “I respect the accomplishments you’ve made on your own. I’ve a better understanding of your need to be strong and your reluctance to rely on anyone else.”
He exhaled and sat back on the sofa.
“My family had problems too,” Carey’s voice was tentative and soft.
“That’s often the case,” I said. “We usually find partners who match where we are in life.”
“My father was an alcoholic. Sometimes he hit my mother. Made me feel like I was being hit.” She stared at the rug as if counting the threads. “Once he shot a gun at her in our house.”
“It was horrific.”
“You must have been terrified,” I recoiled.
She crossed her legs. “Thank God she wasn’t hit.”
“I, too, grew up with violence,” I said. “I stepped in front of my mother to protect her when I was ten or eleven. My father shoved me, banging my head against the wall. I saw stars.”
“That must’ve hurt,” Carey said. She shook her head.
“It did. Emotionally and physically. My father’s temper was his shadow side passed down from his father. I was fortunate that he did care. He worked hard, provided well for us, and made sure I got a good education. He taught me how to camp, ride horses, fish, and hunt.”
“You were lucky,” Steve said.
Carey’s eyes moistened. “My father died from drinking and heart disease when he was sixty. My mother’s still alive but she’s a drama queen, absorbed with herself. I’m lucky my older sister was a mother to me. She’s married too and I call her when I need to talk.”
“You both come from families with broken relationships. You have no functional model for a husband and wife working together. You’re what I call “pioneers,” meaning you have to discover and invent for yourselves what more fortunate children have modeled to them. Lots of us are pioneers. Children who are exposed to domestic violence can be unusually resilient. In many ways you have both done remarkably well.”
They smiled at each other as their eyes met.
I turned to Steve. “What are you gonna do about smoking pot?”
“I’m not sure. It’s the only way I can relax. I’ll try, but it’ll be a challenge to quit.” He tapped his foot rapidly.
“I’m even more upset about your relationship with Vanessa,” Carey interjected. “You’re always going off with her to talk. You complain that I don’t talk to you, but you have her between us.”
“It’s not that big a deal,” he responded. “We’re not romantic.” Carey’s eyes widened.
“Steve, you’re playing with fire,” I said.
“Not only is she your boss’s wife,” Carey said, her voice raised, “but you two leave work together to go driving. It’s outrageous!”
“We have to leave. We can’t smoke pot in the office. We’d get caught.”
“Using pot turns you into a sneak.” Carey glared at him.
“Another good reason to quit,” I said.
“It’s the only drug that calms me down. Without it I can’t relax. Can’t sleep. I’m too wound up!” He clenched his teeth.
“What’s more,” Carey turned to me, “Vanessa snubs me. She’s made no effort to talk with me.” She turned to Steve. “That makes me feel even worse about you and her. I feel like you don’t care about me.”
“I’ve told you I’m not having sex with her,” Steve said. “We’re just friends. Nothing more.”
“I could kill you!” She leaned forward looking Steve in the eye. “I’d almost rather you had sex with her! A one night stand isn’t a commitment. Your friendship is. You talk with her about stuff you don’t share with me. How can you expect me to put up with that?”
“You’ve got a good point,” I said. “We need to work on boundaries. Intact boundaries are the backbone of a successful marriage. Most of us don’t know about boundaries. We’ve not been taught how to protect ourselves from others, or how to protect others from us. In families with alcohol and drug abuse and desertion boundaries are violated daily.”