There are 2 problems with this approach.
- You abdicate moral responsibility when others are suffering.
- What starts off elsewhere can reach your own shores.
In our lives we are all passengers on the same ship, pun intended. This is certainly applicable in a marriage where the experience of pain by one partner affects both spouses. But, one could argue that this analogy doesn't transfer from meddling in foreign affairs to dealing with the issues of your own marriage.
That would be true if a couple was a real unit. When his pain is her pain and her pain is his, then they are a unit. Unfortunately, there is often a huge chasm separating the emotional worlds of spouses. In such a situation they are two distant people who happen to share certain commonalities.
It is easy to understand why. We live in our bodies and don't feel what anyone else does unless we exert an effort to do so. Mirror neurons aside, see here and here, it seems to me that the closest one can relate to another is when:
- A parent is bonding to a child.
- Someone is forced to contemplate their own mortality.
- A member of a highly cohesive group is in a time of distress.
- You are making love to your beloved (not using them for your needs or hooking up with someone with the right body parts).
But, for the most part we remain separate. That being the case, what role should we play in our partner's life? Let's take a look at Sol. For the most part, he feels close to his wife Bernice. He nonetheless avoids her when she feels slighted by her girlfriends. Sol tried to convince Bernice on numerous occasions to let go of her hurt and ignore her friends as being immature. He even suggested that they were envious of Bernice and that she would be better off finding other friends. Sol didn't understand why Bernice preferred to dwell on her feelings rather than take his advice. Eventually, he felt insulted and that he was wasting his time. He wondered why Bernice would repeatedly ignore his suggestions. Could it be that she thought so little of him?
Bernice has since pulled away from Sol. Basically, their relationship is solid. But, now she complains to her friends about Sol's lack of sensitivity. Doesn't this seem like a no win situation for Sol? Either he listens to his wife but then feels belittled or he ignores her and is alienated.
What Sol didn't realize is that although Bernice wanted to share her emotional pain with her closest connection, she never asked him for advice. Sol never considered her perspective since he could not understand why someone would have a problem and not look for a solution, for a way out. Bernice didn't understand why Sol couldn't just let her share without having to impose on her. Is sol's policy of isolationism helpful?
Well, Sol may feel as though he is protecting himself from a type of scorn but he is unfortunately damaging his marriage. The reality is that he never understood his wife well enough. This type of situation arises because one spouse never realizes that their partner relates in such a different way.
Ideally, each spouse should clearly tell their partner what they want. If Bernice wants her husband to listen and empathize, but not make any suggestions, she needs to tell him so. Likewise, if Sol wants advice from Bernice, he should tell her.
This is just one example of the ways in which one spouse withdraws from the other. Isolation from one's partner is a painful experience. We need the connection and support that come from being enmeshed in each other's lives.