Three’s A Crowd – Protecting your relationship

As of the writing of this post, only a handful of people have read 3,000 Miles to Eternity.  The reviews have been very kind and encouraging, but I have noticed a common phrase emerge from readers describing me as a “mushy man”.  I know where it comes from, I readily admit in the book that I want to be in love and have a forever companion.  I am happy to report today that I am 15 years into being in love with Selena and it’s only getting better.  So yeah, maybe I’m a little “mushy”.

There is a statistic that is often repeated, that says money is the #1 cause of divorce.  I don’t know if this is from actual surveys or if it’s just an observation that we find hard to deny.  I would like to submit for your consideration that maybe money is just a symptom of the real cause of most divorces.  Beginning in my teen years, I had lots of practice at failing in romantic relationships, culminating in a glorious failed marriage.

I can testify to you, that the main cause of my inability to have a successful relationship with a woman was not money, but selfishness.

I was reminded of this a few years ago when missionaries invited me to go with them to visit a family that they were teaching.  The couple were in their early 30’s and had 3 children.  When we first arrived we sat down where we could all sit and talk, but within a few minutes the husband disappeared into another room.  During our short visit, the wife was noticeably agitated with him. She made a comment that, “He seems to have a problem sacrificing any of his time to do things that are important to me.”

As we were leaving the house we walked through the front room where we witnessed the man of the house, all alone, fully engaged in a video game.  He barely looked up as he gave us a half-hearted wave goodbye.  I couldn’t help but notice that this struggling family had hundreds of dollars-worth of video games spread around the room.  I also couldn’t help but notice that the wife’s minor agitation had progressed to full on anger.

I’ve seen this phenomenon more and more over the past few years; grown men and video games, but it’s just the latest manifestation of an old problem.  Men and women often enter into marriage where one or both of them have never learned to share, and it can be fatal to the relationship.

There are lots of ways that a person can get all the way to adulthood and fail to learn the simple kindergarten lesson of sharing, but I personally took the path that is most common in our modern world.  I was an addict.  I’m not a victim of addiction.  I chose at a young age to engage in behavior that led to my becoming an addict.  Being an alcoholic and a drug addict are the ultimate in selfishness.

There are two factors concerning addiction that are in direct odds with the desire to have a healthy romantic relationship:

At the point an addiction begins to take hold in a person’s life, emotional maturity is suspended.

Let’s say that you are a 19 year old young man who has learned to use alcohol as a coping strategy.  If all of the uncomfortable, hurtful, or unpleasant things of life that help you (for lack of a better term) become a man are avoided with the use of alcohol, you will one day be a selfish teenager trapped in a 40 year old body.

The second destructive obstacle is the addiction itself.

If addiction exists in a relationship between a man and a woman, then there is a third entity that demands its share of the time and resources.

No matter the desire, an addict cannot put anyone or anything before the addiction.The addiction has to come first. It’s at the very least an experience in periodic misery, if not complete doom to the relationship.

This is my brief explanation of a widespread problem in our world.  How did I come to know this?

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. –Ether 12:27

Any two idiots can fall in love (Selena and I did).  I sometimes say that and people will smile, but when I explain it, the lights come on.  There is an illusion that the most important part of the creation of a romantic relationship is the falling in love part.  It feels so good to be in love and flying around on that pink fluffy cloud with the unicorns that we think that everything is just going to fall into place.  It feels good and it carries us a long way, but it’s not the most important part – the part that lasts.

What was weak in me was my inability to give of myself.  I could not share because I had not learned to share and I was inherently selfish.  When my weakness eventually brought me to my knees and I humbled myself before God, I overcame addiction and with my agency restored I had room for a sweetheart in my life.

This year marks 25 years of sobriety for me.  I still can’t believe the transformation.  I’ve never been so happy and I want to share it with the world.

Selena and I have been service missionaries for LDS Family Services in the Addiction Recovery Program for the past 3 years.  We’ve seen families restored and the transformation of lives.  Real miracles!  We expect, with the release this summer of 3,000 Miles to Eternity, that our circle of friends will grow.  We would like for all of our friends to know of our passion to help people overcome addiction.  We know that it can be done, and we know how good life can be.

As for me, I gave up selfishness and learned to share.  In return I gained joy and satisfaction with my life.  And Selena?  Well, Selena got  a ‘mushy’ man.

~Duane Pannell

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