Walking my dogs on Mitchelville Beach, Hilton Head Island, I remembered a bumper sticker from the 1980s, which stated, “Life Is a Beach.” At the time, I was a graduate psychology student studying marriage and family counseling. My overall intention was to help make the world a better place. I scoffed at this saying. I interpreted it to mean something a lazy person would think, that the point of life is to live with as little effort as possible as close to paradise as one could get.
Decades later, I interpret the same bumper sticker differently. The beach, as is life, is a place where opposing forces struggle with each other. In the case of the beach literally, water and land come to some sort of agreement about boundaries and create a great place for a vacation.
Metaphorically, the beach represents a place where change wars with status quo. As human beings, we struggle to resist change and to give birth to it, both at the same time. Both forces are necessary to sustain life.
Old ideas give way to new ideas. If ideas change too rapidly, they do not mature into useful realities that can benefit human life. If nothing ever changes, life becomes stagnant and progress is not made. Too much change is Chaos, which is destructive. Too little change is Paralysis or rigor mortise, sometimes known as death.
The beach is a place where nature keeps this conflict in balance.
One way to look at my work as a marriage and relationship counselor is that I meet people where they are, on their beach of conflict between changing and staying the same. I help clients use new ideas to create new ways of behaving and relating to others and in turn, get different and better results, improved balance in their relationship.
If you are hurting and in pain, something needs to change. Change in human life starts by using new ideas and ways of thinking. A good marriage counselor provides new ideas for couples that can make marriage fun, trusting and emotionally safe.
Here are two beliefs about marriage that are often hard to give up. When couples replace them with more realistic thought patterns, their marriage or relationship can get better:
1. “All we need is love.” Truth is, love is never enough to make a marriage work anymore than just loving to do surgery makes you a successful brain surgeon.
2. “Romance and courtship are what we did before marriage.” In reality, courtship after the wedding ceremony is what really counts.
Welcome to the beach of life!
image by David Castillo Dominici
Paul W. Anderson, Ph.D. (843-422-1408) is a licensed psychologist and marriage/family counselor.