In the 1940s a relatively unknown psychiatrist named Helmuth Kaiser wrote about a figure skating performance by identical twins he witnessed as a young boy. It wasn’t the impeccably choreographed performance that caught his attention, it was the mesmerized crowd’s reaction.
He also noted that synchronized swimming teams, high-kick chorus lines, and precision military teams produced this same effect. Kaiser intuited that there was something about the unison involved in these performances that stirred the crowds.
More recently, the rapid spread of the Irish dancing phenomenon Riverdance confirms Kaiser’s discovery.
What captured the crowd was an illusion, a fantasy.
A fantasy of two (or more) bodies appearing to be controlled by a single mind. Where separate identities were given up to become part of a larger oneness. He called this a fusion fantasy.
As married individuals, we fall victim to the fusion fantasy everyday. The “two shall become one” belief creates much – if not most – of the marital discord couples face today.
The illusion that a good marriage being like tightly choreographed figure skaters is impossible to live.
There are many times in my counseling sessions when I ask the couple I’m working with if they’re actually conjoined twins or connected some other physical way.
This also happens when I hear “we speak.”
Be honest – you do this too.
When asked a question about the current state of your marriage, you reply, “We both want to make this thing work” or “We love each other and are committed to each other.”
Since when have you been able to know what your spouse thinks and feels? Oh, you may have a general idea based on your experiences with one another, but you don’t know what’s going on in their head – nor should you want to.
“We speak” is the tip of the emotional fusion iceberg.
Couples who are too close are controlled by their connection. They have lost their ability to direct themselves and get swept up in how people around them are feeling. There’s room for only one opinion, or one position.
There’s only one way to break free of this fusion fantasy – grow up.
Sure you could leave the relationship in an attempt to break the emotional fusion, but if you don’t grow up, you’re going to repeat the process in your next relationship.
Marriage is designed for our refinement. Why not lean into the marriage and experience more of what it has to offer? Sure it’s work, even scary at times.
But it’s worth it!
Adapted from Schnarch, D. Passionate Marriage.
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