The Teeter-Totter Syndrome
The Teeter-Totter Syndrome
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. (Prov. 3:5-6)
There is a dangerous dynamic that sets up in many marriages. I call it the teeter-totter syndrome. It is based upon the dynamic where we naturally respond to our spouse’s behavior. When one spouse moves to an unhealthy or extreme position, the other spouse will almost always adjust to the other extreme to protect themselves and the relationship.
Imagine two people sitting face-to-face in the middle of a teeter-totter on a playground. They are close and their weight is balanced. But what happens if one of them moves backwards? You know how it works. On a teeter-totter, everything the other person does on their side affects you on your side—just like marriage.
If the other person on a teeter-totter moves backwards, then you also have to move backwards to keep the balance. If they continue to move backwards, you have to keep moving.
The way it works in real life is like this: one spouse is out of control in their spending so the other spouse has to go to extremes to try to protect the money. One spouse is distant with the kids and won’t discipline them, so the other spouse has to become the disciplinarian and full-time attendant. One spouse becomes a religious fanatic and tries to enforce a legalistic environment in the home, so the other spouse fights to keep some fun and balance.
Our natural response when we perceive a wrong move on our spouse’s part is to adjust accordingly to a “balancing” position. This is the teeter-totter syndrome. Almost all couples have experienced it, but there is a way to avoid it.
The answer is threefold. The first step is loving communication and pursuit. Talk to your spouse about their behavior and tell them you feel a distance. Don’t react and create even more distance.
The second step is to take responsibility for your own actions. Remember, you began face-to-face in the middle of the teeter-totter. If you’ve moved, you’re wrong. Be humble and realize that some of your spouse’s actions could have been in response to your moving away.
The third step is to get help. If you can’t resolve an issue on your own, don’t sit by as your marriage grows more distant and the problems more dangerous. Get help. Be willing to get
advice and take it. Don’t be satisfied until you are sitting faceto-face again. Remember, that is where you started, and the best times in your marriage are spent right there!
Talk It Out | Have you experienced the teeter-totter syndrome in your marriage? Talk about anything that has gotten out of balance and how you can bring it back into balance.
Walk It Out | Do an activity together that requires balance—skating, bike riding, or walking on a narrow path. Compare how different factors can make you lose your balance (wind or other weather elements, distractions, losing focus). Talk about how this applies to other situations in your marriage and life.
Created about 1 year ago