The Marriage Pier by Tim Olsen – Clinical Care Consultants Arlington Heights and Inverness, Illinois

The Marriage Pier


Tim Olsen, MA, LPC

Have you ever been to Santa Monica or San Francisco, California?  I grew up on the west coast and used to love going to the piers built from these great beaches and bays.

Piers are built out into the water for people to enjoy a view of the coastline and an up-close experience of the surf without being tossed around by the waves.  If you want an intimate view of the pier, grab scuba gear and go below the waterline.  The pier is supported by pylons which are built deep into the ground beneath the water, allowing people a safe fishing spot, unobstructed sunsets, and even a ride on a Ferris wheel.  These pylons are strong enough to hold the pier in place against constant battering by weather and tide… and, they plunge deep beneath the surface.

Marriage is like a pier, and three primary comparisons stand out to me. The “who” of each participant provides individual foundations upon which you are now attempting to build a pier together.

First, each spouse’s pre-marriage life experiences are buried deep into a personal bedrock of family, socioeconomics, faith, ethnicity, and a host of other components that make them an individual (mixed into this foundation can also be shame, guilt, fear, and unknown anxiety).  Then, when two individuals decide to build a life together, the pier of your marriage comes together in shared experiences and responsibility upon these individual pylons.

Often, the surface becomes the focus of marriage very quickly.  The visible parts of life take precedent; the foundations can easily be forgotten.  Above the waves is a life built together of common purposes and desires, under them is still what makes each partner strong or weak (sometimes needing great support).

Second, when one spouse ceases to invite the other into an intimate knowledge of their foundations, the marriage will suffer, just like a pier without attention given to the pylons.  Focusing only on surface experiences and responsibilities can take valuable attention away from the needs and integrity of the individuals supporting them.  Intimacy is developed in marriage by strengthening and maintaining the surface as well as its foundation. Both top-down and bottom-up care is necessary. You can scrub the decking and maintain the strength of connection to your partner by staying intimately aware of the here-and-now.  However, just preserving the surface of your marriage in shared experience is not enough for lasting strength.

Lastly, a marriage is not just what is built together – it’s supported by each partner’s foundation.  Strengthen your marriage by mutual exposure of what it is built upon.  Lasting intimacy is developed by examining the foundation of your spouse and exposing yours for examination.  The difficult parts of your individual journeys provide places to gain insight, promote understanding, and increase support for the person with whom you are building a life today.

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