Picture this: A decent looking statue is in the middle of a studio. The artist isn’t done yet, and while he’s out, another person comes in the room and starts hacking away at the statue, which inevitably ruins it. This analogy represents the feeling of someone chipping away at your soul. Now imagine this second analogy: Picture the character from The Christmas Carol, Jacob Marley (or Jacob and Robert Marley if you’re watching the Muppet’s Christmas Carol, which is by far the best version… yes, I’m a grown up… kind of). In the story, Marley carries these heavy chains that slow him down. This analogy represents the problem of people taking on more than they can handle. These two analogies are the best way to describe the two main ways people go through life, and what leads to ruining a relationship: Someone feeling like their soul is slowly being chipped away and someone who is overwhelmed with expectations.
The first analogy of someone chipping away at your soul is a great way to describe what a lot of women feel with their mothers and/or their mother-in-laws. The woman is the statue and her relative is there chipping away at her. Whether it’s a dig comment, criticism, a sneer, a slight, or some type of putdown that makes the woman not feel good enough, it’s like the relative is chipping away at the woman’s soul. At some point, the woman being chipped away at is going to snap because you can only chip away at a statue for so long before it wobbles, falls, or becomes deformed and not what the artist intended. I’d like to believe that most mothers and mother-in-laws who are guilty of being the chipper don’t want to wreck the statue, but are trying to help when it is, in fact, causing my harm than good: “Is that really the career you want?” “That outfit is an interesting choice,” “Is that how often you think you should call me?” Sometimes the mothers are actually being nice, but there’s a misinterpretation and the daughter assumes the mom is criticizing her because she assumes the worst. A mother-daughter relationship can be difficult to maintain, especially when it’s easier for one of them to hide. The typical dynamic is the daughter starts to not be around as often to avoid the criticism or the daughter has a massive freak out and looks crazy thereby opening the door to a whole new level of guilt and resentment. It makes me glad I’m a son.
When it comes to marriage for women, I’d say the second analogy of carrying weight is more accurate. Unlike Marley who carries chains forged by his greed and selfishness, many wives forge their chains from trying to do everything and help everyone while ignoring their own needs. On top of a job, many wives have a tendency to carry the weight of making sure the house runs smoothly and making sure their kids and husband dress and behave appropriately. Many women carry a ridiculous amount of weight as they try to make it look like they have the perfect life. The unfortunate reality is you can only carry so much weight before you start to get resentful, snappy, and mean, which, in turn, leads them to be someone who chips away at someone else’s soul. It’s a terrible cycle to get stuck in, and I know this because I’ve been there. When I wrote this is what happens to a lot of wives, some husbands do this too. For instance, I did this in my first five year relationship. I’d actually say our relationship was me carrying a stupid amount of weight and my girlfriend-at-the-time was there picking up and carrying whatever she could to help me keep moving forward. Like anyone under a heavy burden, I’d have some bad moments. I don’t think I was ever that mean to my girlfriend, but it was only five years and I had a lot of great supports in place. She’s essentially lucky to have gotten out when she did because in a few years I would’ve likely become the statue chipper.
That was my first relationship dynamic, but I’d say the normal relationship dynamic between a man and woman is the first analogy where the guy feels like his wife is chipping away at his soul. Notice I’ve delayed making this claim as long as I could? I didn’t want the women under heavy weight snapping at me if I could prevent it. What people need to understand is that women have a power over a man, and I don’t just mean sexually. A wife has the power to make or break a man. Any guy who is the President or wins a prestigious award didn’t get there without the help of a good woman.
From my experience, a lot of women wear themselves out carrying all this weight and then they’re too worn out to be nice at home, so they take out their frustrations and hurt on their family with the biggest target likely being on the husband. A woman wearing out is exacerbated by her mom or mother-in-law chipping away at her soul like in the first analogy. Whether it’s from burn out or the woman following a problem I often see where we treat our long time partner the way we treat ourselves, what is typically a very nice woman becomes unusually mean because she’s worn out. Now, please note I’m not saying the guy is innocent. In fact, there’s a good chance he’s doing something to make it worse. That being said, a lot of conflict in relationships start because a woman has an out-of-reach standard that is naturally not being met, which is a standard influenced by other women and a need for their approval. This was the basic premise of the movie Bad Moms Christmas. In a normal relationship a woman has a standard that’s too high and a guy has a standard that’s too low, which leads to a natural conflict.
Ultimately, there are two ways to help combat these cycles. First, the weight bearers need to learn how to carry less weight and be fairer to themselves. This will allow them to enjoy life more and not be so critical of the partner. At the same time, the person being criticized needs to consider if any of these points are valid and do anything that might help reduce the weight the other person is carrying. In either situation, a good therapist is always a smart idea… a great therapist like me is an even better idea (insert an emoji that shows my brilliance here).
This week may you consider what issue you’re most likely facing and what you can do to help it.
Rev Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people