April 6, 2021

The Maiden, the Mother & the Crone: How Shifting Relationship Archetypes changed my Marriage for the Better.

Like so many relationship arguments, it’s the little stuff that reveals the deeper issues.

Here’s the rough transcript of the latest spat in my marriage:

“I’ve decided I’m not going to sign up for that writing course,” I told my husband as we prepared dinner.

“Good,” he stated quickly and flatly. Too quickly and too flatly, in fact. It made me suspicious. I’d been bringing up this course all week, and he’d only listened. And now he finally voiced an opinion on the matter? And from his tone, a pretty strong one, too.

Blood rising to my face, I turned from the sink to face him and asked, “Why didn’t you say something before now? I’ve been waffling on this all week.”

“You want me to tell you what I really think?” he said, and I could feel his own coiled energy about to erupt.

“Yes, of course I do!”

“I think it’s beneath you. That’s what I think.” Boom.

“Oh,” I said, since I couldn’t think of what else to say. “Well, you don’t have to put it that way…”

I knew what he meant by his blunt comment. He meant that I no longer needed the prodding and the accountability I did when I first started writing. But the comment was so strong—his opinion was so strong—how could he have kept it to himself the whole week?

Desperation, sadness, and anger swirled in my body. I said, “I’m not done yet, you know. My life hasn’t suddenly become irrelevant or something. So yes, if you see something, I want you to say something!”

Anger manifests for me as bodily shaking, and I was shaking enough to need a few deep breaths. I took them. And as dinner grew cold, I let myself feel beneath the anger. And there, I felt the fear of abandonment. When I next found words, they were from that place of hurt and vulnerability.

I asked: Is this what it looks like to invest in someone? Someone you’ve been married to for almost 23 years? Was he going to watch my life from a distance now? Did he not care anymore how I spent my time? 

In hindsight, my husband’s hesitancy to offer his opinion makes sense: for over a decade, I’d been demanding that he give me the space to make my own decisions without input from him. Sidelining himself during my decision-making process was both out of habit and self-preservation.

But now, our relationship needed to find a new rhythm. To do so, I traced back to our origin story—the story of who we were when we first met.

When we started dating 25 years ago, we unconsciously settled into a Maiden/Knight relationship. I had just exited a stressful job that left my body riddled with anxiety and shame. My husband has an innate ability to keep life in perspective. He’s grounded, calm, savvy, and practical. At the time, I was anxious, insecure, and depleted. He was the perfect sword-carrying Knight to support my Maiden-in-need-of-rescuing energy.

From this dynamic, my husband stood up for me and protected me when I felt attacked, and took over for me when I was overwhelmed. While I nursed my wounds and tried to reorient myself, he took care of me in simple yet important ways—setting up my new furniture, helping with the laundry, and shampooing the carpets when my cats had fleas. I looked to him for advice and counsel. I sometimes valued his opinion more than my own.

In fairy tales, the Knight and Maiden live happily ever after. In real life, we shift and change. For my husband and me, the Maiden/Knight pairing carried us through the first seven years of our marriage.

But after seven years and two children, I felt differently about myself and how I wanted to navigate my life. After all, I had birthed new life into the world and was protecting them every day—I figured I could protect myself from this point forward, too.

With the help of yoga, anxiety counseling, and a hungry quest for personal development, I discovered my inner strength and personal authority. I’d always had a lot on my mind, but I was finally learning how to get things off my mind. I stepped out of the Maiden archetype into the Mother archetype.

There are multiple variations of the Mother archetype (or any archetype, probably). Mine was the Fierce, Independent Mother—the one who didn’t want rescuing or protection anymore.

My husband, likely unsure of what this shift meant for him—after all, who is a Knight without a Maiden?—accused:

“You’re not the person I married.”

He’s always had a way of getting right to the painful point.

“No, I’m not,” I said, quietly and yet with conviction and truth that surprised us both. “So, if you want me still, you have to accept me as the woman I am now. If not, then you’ll have to leave me. But I will never be her again.”

He could’ve left me for another Maiden, and I would’ve let him go. Instead, he reached inside himself and found his inner Father —or perhaps we became the Queen and King. Whatever archetypes we were expressing, we found a relationship where we each ruled our own lives from our independent thrones.

That’s when I got more space. Space to make my own decisions and mistakes. To do things my way. To create by following my intuition and instincts. Our marriage survived that crucial turning point because we chose to alter our dynamic  and dance a new archetypal dance  with each other.

Until this argument over the writing course, it had worked pretty well.

Upon reflection and discussion, I realized that the space I’d fought so hard for, space that had initially made me feel free, now made me feel lonely. His withdrawal of protection, which I had demanded from him, suddenly felt as if he’d checked out of our relationship.

I want his protection and support back. Not because I need it anymore; I’m not asking for a return to our Maiden/Knight relationship. I just want more of his attention back. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say I want him to invest in me again— which would mean offering advice, asking questions, and generally giving a damn about my choices.

People change. We’re supposed to change. This means relationships must change, too.

What’s happening now is this: I feel myself moving out of Mother energy into Crone energy— the energy of wisdom, reflection, and balance.

After years of moving between “Protect me” and “Leave me be,” I think I’m finally ready to see where that middle ground is between them.

I can imagine that many relationships fall apart when the archetypal pairing that initially bound them together wants to shift into something new. But perhaps if we recognize these shifts as additions rather than replacements, it would help us grow as couples and individuals.

Because I’m certainly not relinquishing the Fierce Mother in me. She taught me many things about risk and courage and standing on my own two feet.

And I don’t disdain the Maiden in me. In fact, I can still play the Maiden, and my husband will joyfully take on the Knight, ready to safeguard me from bad guys or just open a jar of pickles. We both still find satisfaction playing out this pairing. But it’s now little more than a flirtation for us.

Through my just-opening Crone’s eyes, I know I have nothing to prove to myself or anyone else anymore. I’m quite capable of making my own decisions and mistakes. But I don’t have to go it alone, either.

Here’s what it comes down to:

I want my space, but I don’t want to feel neglected.

I want to be watched over and cared for, but I don’t want to be parented or micro-managed.

I want an investor—not an owner, not a sideline-sitter, and not a cheerleader.

I know society might jump in here and call me high-maintenance, or some other flattering term. But that’s just the thing–I don’t want to “maintain” anything. I’m a human being who needs change and who needs a partner who can change with me.

A committed partnership shouldn’t lock two people into their archetypal roles forever. A relationship must be regularly renegotiated. Sometimes we’re the support structure. Other times we’re the ones being supported. This is, at least, how my husband and I have chosen to move on from our argument.

I look forward to seeing where my husband moves next. Perhaps he’ll become the Wizard or the Wise Man. But whatever it is, it will be an archetype who knows the wisdom of giving space when needed and advice when requested.

Bluntly as always, I’m sure.

~

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