The dancing jewel
By Dr. Paul Patey
We contracted to have three “elective long visits.” Most of the first visit had consisted of their response to my request for them to tell me about how they met, and how the relationship grew. They had heard each other talk about their love and its growth. I wondered to myself if we could find a way whereby they could show each other what they really wanted. They agreed to try. Actions speak louder than words.
“John, put your hand up like you were pointing with your index finger extended. Keep your elbow partly bent.”
John does. His wife, sitting near him, watches wonderingly.
“Now, Geraldine you do the same.”
Their pointing fingers are about two feet apart and point in different directions.
“Now, while facing each other let your finger tip approach your partner’s finger tip but stop about four inches apart.”
Geraldine turns toward John. John moved closer to Geraldine and lowers his finger tip to be level with hers. The tip of their index fingers are moved to about four inches apart.
“John, Geraldine, notice that now you are both pointing at the same spot. It’s between your fingers but about four inches higher. Your finger tips and that spot create a triangle. Stare at that spot.”
“Now, imagine that at that spot there is a dancing jewel. A sparkling spot.”
I pause awhile, and then continue.
“....And imagine that dancing jewel is your marriage. Stare at it.”
I wait. They stare at the invisible space just above their hands towards which both of them are pointing. I wait. I give them a few moments to stare at their marriage. Then I say: “I have a question for you. What do you want to do with that dancing jewel?”
I say no more. I too stare at the spot where the imaginary, invisible jewel dances. They both continue to stare at the dancing jewel. What will they do with it? I wait. I watch.
A little finger flickers. Then I notice the other fingers of their extended hands are slowly opening. The movement continues and instead of forming nearly a fist below the pointer they now have become extended and spread as if the two hands were reaching for the dancing jewel.
Harmoniously and simultaneously with fingers spread both hands move gently forward and upward and clasp each other. The spot where the dancing jewel was is now embraced between their touching palms.
I wait. I remain silent.
Their hands stay together, but their gaze shifts from their hands to their faces. Silently they stare in each others eyes. I sense this is a sacred1 moment. It is. They have made their decision about the dancing jewel.
And I? I have witnessed something beautiful and sacred. I have seen a profound expression of love.
I hear one of them take a deep breath, or was it both together? They turn to me.
“Well, you’ve got your answer. You know what you want to do with your marriage, and you know what your partner wants to do with it. You both want to keep and treasure it.”
They nod silently, reverently. Their hands remain in contact.
“So now the question is, ‘How?’ How do you maintain and treasure your marriage?”
I see insecurity flicker on their faces. The bliss of the past few moments is overshadowed by the returning memories of the distress, frustration, chaos, and confusion of the past year as they struggled to maintain their bond.
After a slight pause I continue. “Do you want to tackle that question, ‘How?’”
Prompt spontaneous nods are made by both.
Arrangements are made for another meeting a few days later. As homework they agree to talk to each other about today’s visit. They depart. Next visit we will tackle the question “How?”
More than 20 years after this event I unexpectedly met John in the community. We chatted. He spoke joyfully of his wife, Geraldine, and about their two daughters now all grown up. I reminded him of the moment when he and his wife clasped their hands around the dancing jewel. He remembered. His eyes sparkled. The jewel still dances.
1. A memory: we used to love each other once.
2. Sharing: time, space, activities, decisions; and supporting and accepting that which is important though not shared.
3. Some ability to express feelings.
4. Avoiding the bombs: those things which destroy a marriage.
5. Deliberate intent: deliberately loving your partner with your thoughts and choices, not just feelings and impulses.
6. Commitment: to each other, and to the relationship.
7. Cherishing: in the mind as thoughts and feelings. In behavior as language and actions.
8. Partner is number one to you, and knows it.
I have found this rather clumsy list to be useful in discussions with patients and couples seeking to improve their marriage.
1Sacred as described in Webster’s Dictionary: