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Learning To Run Big Engines

I am very excited, eager, and willing to share a story.  Wifey and I are very much in love and have an amazing energy that is palpable to us both.  As we met and were falling in love, we realized we were each raised in dysfunctional family systems. I am not blaming or finger pointing, all families are dysfunctional. We want to build a family that brakes the cycles of this dysfunction.  These patterns of behavior have been formed over decades, we were excited and terrified at our attempt to end them.  If we could arm our children with just one more healthy tool than we were given, we decided it was worth the pain and effort. When you throw the old family playbook out the window and start living with a new instruction manual, life and relationships can be confusing and painful.  Especially given the heavy baggage we each brought with us on this journey, all carry on in an oversized roller bag that doesn’t fit in the overhead compartment.  Often the pain of that baggage feels just as real as it did 20, 30, and 40 years ago.  Knowing how to sort these implicit memories is paramount.  We quickly realized we needed to learn to handle this pain ourselves rather than expect another person to fix it for us. Given the characteristics of people who have grown up in alcoholic households, how do you acknowledge the other person’s pain without wanting to fix it?  It is an ever-evolving skill that needs to be practiced and adjusted and honed.  It takes vigilance.

    Wifey and I have learned we both have what we have come to call “big engines.” Our big engines are different – mine is loud and demands attention and breaks down without warning.  Wifey’s hums along, taking the curves unchecked but safely, risk is still an allure for both of us, we will push the limits of our engines.  Sometimes the check engine light comes on in wifey’s Ferrari.  Whether she takes the car to the mechanic or not is up to her.  The longer you let the check engine light go, the greater chance you will have a very expensive repair to pay for…. I think you get the point.  

Now, when seen from a distance and with proper perspective, my family has a great opportunity to heal open wounds. 

The cycle in my family usually goes like this: wifey reaches a breaking point with physical or emotional health and claims there’s no way this can ever get better and announces, I’m leaving.”  She flees. This never surprises me. I’ve known she prefers the flight response since early on in our relationship. Wifey has an extreme reaction to any kind of overload of fear ad runs.  This is how and who she is and I love her for it.  It’s the right kind of crazy.  It is her sloppines in the execution of getting better that lets me know, as her partner, that she is indeed trying to “get better” and change the playbook for our family going forward.  She knows no other way.  We both know that will require us to take on a fair amount of emotional pain and mistake making.  We have no idea what we are doing but know the desire, willingness and intent are all there in order that we can change the course of our family narrative.  This is truly her and I love her unconditionally.  

In 2018 Kimley decided her car needed to go to the shop… the check engine light had been on for a while.  Because she is a Ferrari and the parts are expensive and sometimes take a long time to find, she moved out for the summer. I am very good in a crisis.  Like I said, my party bus engine breaks down a lot – I am used to unannounced crises.  The process of healing in my family is such that my wife recognizes there is a crisis happening in our marriage/family and then relies on me to lead through the exposed pain so we can experience the light that lies on the other side of all emotional pain and spiritual growth.  At the end of May in 2018 my wife and I decided we were going to do a Summer separation hard reset on our marriage and really work on ourselves as individuals.  It’s amazing the way the two of us fit together like two puzzle pieces. She brings it up and I say OK let’s make a plan to get better.  Getting better requires a different kind of knowledge then exposing the dysfunction and this is why we make such a great team.  It takes a lot of guts to speak up and bring a big problem to the surface.  It is scary and seems informidable… to those that can see it.  But those that can’t see these dynamics are precisely the ones that can come up with a plan and process for individuals to heal, grow and thrive. So over the course of the Summer of 2018, wifey got her own cute little apartment for three months and I stayed in our family home.  I will come out and say it, this was the scariest and most difficult three months of my life.  We had good guidance.  We had already been in couples counseling for a couple years and things were going well but just under the surface of the deceiving calm was an undertow that could have sucked us under and ruined our marriage.  Codependency is a sneaky beast that will borough into a relationship and suffocate both participants and who they are as individuals.  We were beginning to look to each other for internal validation and the fulfilment of a sick need for adoration.  Our counselor helped us unpack what was going on and how to heal and thrive in our marriage going forward.  We had a plan and rules to go by.  We scheduled dates and had a check in call every night at 8:00 that we tried to keep limited to an hour.  I will say we did an excellent job of sticking to these rules.  As a result of our own strong individual efforts and our mutual willingness to work together, we came out of this experiment a much stronger couple.

On our first date Summer 2018. I love this woman more than words can describe!

The ultimate lesson we learned is that we both have big engines and we are the only ones that know how to run and drive our own big engines. Wifey should never be driving around in my party bus and I should always be hands off when it comes to taking wifey’s Ferrari out for a drive. I look at it like this, we are all 15 year olds on the inside. Some of us are better at hiding it than others. So what happens if you give the keys to a Ferrari to a 15 year old boy? I can tell you he is going to run it into the ditch. The damage done by running a Ferrari into a ditch are expensive repairs to have to make. The other good question is what happens when you give the keys to a party bus to a 15 year old girl? Again, things will end up in the ditch and the repairs will be expensive. So we now know to run our own big engines. Remembering this can be difficult when codependency is a tendency in one’s life. If that is the case, admit it and work to not have it overwhelm your life and relationships. It is scary and one needs to be brave in order to confront such dragons. With an open heart, open mind, arms at your side and true unconditional love, any battle of the spirit can be won. Day In Day Out we must fight the good fight and protect ourselves and the ones we love from the insidious forces working to tear us apart on every level.

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