Back when I was young, and married to my first husband, in one of the many treatment programs he attended, we saw a family therapist. We were discussing my husbands mother, who was an alcoholic, and how it might impact my husbands new sobriety.
Because she was an alcoholic, she did not see how her kids could possibly be. She therefore did not participate in any support or “family week” activities. My father in law attended with me.
I would like to pause here to say that I loved my first mother in law, and even though she wasn’t perfect she was a pretty tolerable alcoholic. She kept her drinking to set times and she rarely overdid it. It was methodically planned, including needed nap and coffee hours. She was a really good grandma to our daughter, tickled as she was to have a girl after raising three boys. She died when my daughter was seven, and telling my daughter was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. She died because her organs could not recover after surgery for colon cancer, and that was because of the drinking.
Roxanne, her name was, would not tolerate any discussion about her drinking. She was raised by her grandma, because when she was young her alcoholic parents were in a drunk driving accident that left them unable to care for their five children. Her mother died of cirrhosis of the liver at 32. Roxanne made it to 47.
But at the time, my husband was seriously struggling (still is) and his moms refusal to acknowledge it was both a risk and a point of contention between us.
“What you have to do,” the therapist said, “is not let her into your relationship bubble.”
She went on to tell us about how we choose what we allow into our relationship bubble, what we allow to come between us, that we should strive to keep our bubble safe and peaceful.
My first marriage bubble did not work out. The drugs and alcohol lived in the bubble with us and once we had a baby, she and I needed out of that bubble for good.
I’ve written before about how my now husband and I made a pact, when we were first starting out, that we wouldn’t let our kids break us up. Second marriages fail at an even higher rate than first marriages. Having both been married before, neither of us were interested in another divorce. We had some trying times.
I told him about the relationship bubble. It became something we put into practice, and this time, it works.
When we we might want to fight over something dumb, we can ask ourselves, is this something I should let in our bubble? (is the garbage can important enough to be in the bubble?) The answer is often no. We hardly ever fight, and if we do disagree, we still don’t let it into our bubble, into our relationship.
Lately I’ve found myself thinking about a personal bubble. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before!
Inside my bubble are gratefulness, happiness, goodness and light. Confidence and kindness. Grace and humility. Pride and joy. Love. Hope. Faith. Peace.
Of course, other things wanna get in there, too. Other people. Tragedies and heartache. Anger and sadness. Hopelessness and despair. Chaos and turmoil.
When something is getting to me, I imagine shoving it out of my bubble. I can be somewhat aggressive with my mental image of shoving, but sometimes all it needs is an elbow or a hip check.
It doesn’t go away, it’s still waiting outside the bubble, sticking it’s tongue out or giving me the finger, but I’m keeping it from impacting the me that lives in the happy bubble. That keeps it from impacting how I feel about myself. How I treat others, how I react.
Sometimes it’s a full time job keeping the bubble peaceful and happy, but I think it’s working.
I’m imagining everyone else with bubbles, too. I’m mentally shoving what I can for you but I’m going to need your help. Give a few things, the ones that are making you feel bad about yourself, the ones that are impacting how today is going, the old heave ho, will you? Out of the you bubble. You deserve a happy bubble.