I realize that I could have chosen a more appealing metaphor if I wanted to keep my female readers but just as Cinderella Man was not a boxing movie but a movie about love, family, and devotion, told through the eyes of a boxer; so this column is about love and commitment.
I’m sure that there are many metaphors that we could use to describe the successful marriage, and just one will not be enough to explore the subject thoroughly; but the boxing metaphor fits all types of marriages: the good, the bad, and the felony.
Have you ever seen the celebration of a fighter’s corner after the judges announce his victory? They dive into the ring – over the ropes, under the ropes, they’re screaming and jumping and they pick up their fighter and celebrate. Champagne flies out, there is indulgence and gratitude is expressed in all directions. Even when a fighter loses, a great manager has a way of lessening the blow, of protecting his fighter. He manages the bruises to his ego as he manages the contusions to his face. He shields his fighter from the vultures in the press and the gold-diggers in the hotel bar.
The relationship of a fighter to a manager was nowhere more telling than it was with a young Mike Tyson and Cus D’Amato. Mike Tyson, when he first arrived, was the most exciting heavyweight in years. He had come off the hard street, from a bad background, but Cus “taught him the ropes.” He forged a focused, disciplined fighter who dominated his sport and then D’Amato died and Tyson fell to pieces. Now, as broke as he is broken, he scrounges for cameos in second rate comedies.
It’s easy to see how a bad marriage is like a boxing match: each person views their spouse as their primary opponent, they abide in opposite corners, when the crowd cheers for them – it’s bad for you, and if there is any period of rest in the engaged battle, it’s only a temporary cease-fire to catch your breath.
Your friends are in your corner, her friends are in hers, and both corners are engaged in tactics to defeat the other side and if possible to score the humiliating knock out. The difference is that in a bad marriage, there’s no respect for the opponent: you don’t tap gloves, and you certainly don’t hug when it’s all over.
A bad marriage may be over in a round or two, fists flailing, jaws breaking, mouthpieces flying and then it’s over – a crushing defeat. Or it may last for round after round, a debilitating, exhausting struggle that, when it does finally come to an end, must be sorted out on the judges’ cards to determine just who may have won. And people may argue the outcome for years. In-Laws, Out-Laws, Lawyers and even police might get involved, but the children are never spared. Never.
So how does a good marriage resemble a boxing match?
Attitudes change before habits do. Most counselors try to talk the couple into changing their habits so that their spouse’s attitude will change. If only he’d stop [blanking] – things would get better; or if she would just not [blank] then things wouldn’t have spiraled out of control. She spends, he ignores, emotional abuse, physical detachment, did I mention there were kids in there somewhere?
Attitudinal change precedes habitual transformation. When husband and/or wife stop seeing themselves as “one flesh,” it becomes a boxing match and they’re in opposite corners. There are periods of rest when the ring girl carries a card around between rounds, but that’s not progress, that’s reloading.
The healthy marriage is a “Title Fight,” it’s supposed to have both partners in the same corner. Sometimes the wife is the corner help, sometimes she has the gloves on and the husband is, but they’re both supposed to be advising, tending to their partners cuts, offering them water, suggesting tactics and if they throw in the towel, it’s not on each other but on an overwhelming opponent that cannot be beaten. And they manage the loss together.
The opposing corner is filled with adversity: sickness, job-loss, tragic circumstances; all those things that we promised in front of God and man that we would overcome on our wedding day – the sickness, the poverty, and the bad times.
If you are the friend, the sister, or the mother-in-law, you have sworn an oath too. You were witness to that marriage and you should do everything you can to see your brother or sister, not as an individual, but as an irreducible part of a committed relationship. Anything less than that and you are a part of the problem.
The number one reason for divorce is not “money,” that is a myth perpetuated by failures looking for an alibi.
Every divorce has at least one thing in common: there is at least one person involved who has forsaken their vows.
A failed marriage is like a bad politician, it is one person, sometimes two, that have broken their commitment to “in good times and in bad, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.” A politician that neglects the constitution he swore to uphold is cut from the same cloth as the spouse who fails to commit to the vows sworn before God and man.
A couple that is committed to those vows may have problems with money – they may lose their house, have huge medical bills, or have to downsize and even start over; but they will remain committed to “for richer or poorer,” and they will harvest the fruit of commitment sustained.
Wouldn’t it be great if we treated our spouse with at least as much love and respect as Cus D’Amato had for a common street thug? After all, isn’t that what we mean when we swear “to have and to hold, to love and to cherish, ‘til death do us part”?
Note: this is not to say that divorce isn’t sometimes necessary, it is. The same God that invented marriage, allowed for divorce in extreme circumstances. That subject will have to appear in another column.
Image: Courtesy of: http://www.boxingcoachmike.ru/tyson-and-cus-damato.html