Thursday, August 21, 2014


In the classic fairy tale Rumpelstiltskin, a miller, desperate to improve his fortunes, carelessly boasts to his king that his fair daughter can spin straw into gold. The king then puts her to the test, sealing her in a room with a small pile of straw and giving her until the morning to produce the gold. Alone, the maiden weeps in despair until the goblin Rumpelstiltskin appears. For her necklace he will transform the straw. The next evening, the king ups the ante and puts the young woman in with a larger mound of straw. Again the imp appears, this time demanding the woman's ring in exchange for his services. Finally, the king promises to marry the girl if she can transform a room packed with straw. The troll appears, but the woman has nothing left to offer. With her life on the line, she offers to give him her first born child. With promises made, Rumpelstitskin produces the gold and then disappears. Some years later, the queen gives birth to her first child, having long since forgotten her oath. Yet Rumpelstiltskin appears to collect his end of the monstrous bargain.

While for many, fairy tales and their plot lines will never be anything more than quaint and dusty stories from their childhoods, but the story of Rumpelstiltskin is one that I have seen played out in several relationships, including my own. It begins when spouses avoid talking to each other about important issues. For me, I just didn't want to upset a peaceful evening or I just didn't feel like taking part in a heated discussion. We then walk away from these avoided encounters with the gold in our hands thinking how clever we were. Yet over time, this pattern of avoidance and side-stepping one another leads to a deep erosion of the foundation that once supported the relationship. Though we never gave it mind in the moment, sooner or later, the price has to be paid for our end of the monstrous bargain that we tacitly agreed to.