My family was from East Texas, and I did a lot of growing up there (though I was born in Louisiana), so I learned the language. Lots of colorful expressions came to me from there. This one about two ticks and no dog comes to mind quite often in working with couples in counseling. Not to talk about any one of them, that’s confidential, but to say that with Lots of them I see two hurting people, wanting help from the other, but both either have nothing to give or they have an internal rule against giving.
When they have nothing to give, perhaps it is because the trauma and abuse they feel has depleted them, taken away their personality and strength, or built a wall of stone. The abuse may have happened long before the marriage, or in the marriage alone, or in both before and after. Regardless, they have their emotional arms wrapped around them and their head covered with lots of “never again’s” and “I know what I’ll do’s” to protect them from any further attack. I have made another discovery. Sometimes it is because they learned about “romance” in Jr. High school and their knowledge of people and relationships has not grown much since that time.
So, what do we do? We start with self-awareness, and with a search for what made the wall necessary. We must not just tear down the wall if the relationship is still hurtful. Self-awareness is part of what J. B. Phillips was talking about when he developed his translation of the New Testament verse, Romans 12:2, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its mold”. Sometimes even the world right at home can mold us into someone other than the person God created us to be. Couples begin speaking in “we-think”. An abusive partner may enforce compliance with their ideas. In the case of the “two ticks and no dog” couple, maybe both have tried to enforce compliance and both have become exhausted.
Recovering self-awareness takes a lot of conversation with our selves, and a lot of choice making and growing in wisdom, but it can happen. Next, comes assertively expressing ourselves to others without being a people pleaser, and also without being a bully toward them. Differences of opinion and personality need to be O.K., and they can even be fun. What happens when one spouse begins to speak for themselves, is that the other spouse may struggle with two things, 1) that their spouse isn’t blindly following them, and 2) that they themselves are now only speaking for their own self, and they too, will need to get used to more independence.
After self-awareness, and the assertiveness this involves, both ticks, ooops, I mean, People, will need to develop and share sensitivity. No couple becomes a happy and fulfilled couple without the ability to communicate about unmet needs, and do it in a way that is loving and helpful. Seeking the best for one another, as well as ourselves, practicing cooperation, openness, trustworthiness, and truthfulness with each other, two people can grow together, in reciprocal equality.
They will no longer be two ticks with no dog. They will be two strong people who can join each other to build a life together.