Emotional Brinkmanship

A photo of the Graham Kerr family circa 1960
Sep 09, 2016

Emotional Brinkmanship


Flash of Silver…the leap that changed my world

Question #40
Rite of Passage Fifteen –All At Sea –
1959 I am twenty-five years old 

Q. Jealousy and desire are not unusual “bedfellows” but they are usually suffered in private. So you think they should remain so…or does it somehow help to see the survival take place?


At this moment, when pencil meets paper, I have no idea how to handle this very touchy subject. All I know is that it must be included, even through the emotions it may reveal were amongst the most uncomfortable for me at the time. Even the thought of putting them before you is difficult!

So…here goes!

As a direct result of my perceived indifference to Treena during my six months of preparing for her and Tessa’s arrival in New Zealand, I had only written six times!

On arrival, Treena was astonishingly beautiful and after six months apart I was quite preoccupied with sharing her bed…okay, so I really hadn’t thought of much else for many long weeks.

So, why hadn’t I written to declare my desire?

When she told me that she had had an “affair of the heart” with a kind and attentive ships officer, my life suddenly crashed! “What does this mean about …tonight?” was my immediate thought.

Then came her ultimatum, “I’m going to give you three months to prove that you still love me…us.” She drew Tessa close.

Obviously, my desire remained –not unlike throwing water on a fat caused fire. Jealousy flared alongside desire and raged within me.

This was my first love; the love of my life was giving me three months to prove that love!


Desire and jealously combined to provide an immediate answer to my apparent indifference!

I became the least indifferent husband on the planet!

So…what about now?

In less than one week she was convinced and we shared the very inexpensive secondhand bed for the first time in over half a year.

Desire was quenched but jealousy remained deeply imbedded where it danced a tormented tango with self-pity and a sense of betrayal.

At this time it was enough that my love had been accepted –for that, I was profoundly grateful. Our son Andy arrived nine months later to be our ‘love’ child.

A photo of the Graham Kerr family circa 1960

Looking back over all these years I have come to fully appreciate the use of a frank discussion entered into by both parties, even with an umpire, to explain how it ‘felt’ to be on what looked like opposite sides.

In tennis, the umpire and his line judges decide if a ball was ‘in’ or ‘out’. In a marriage, the umpire becomes a counselor, pastor or friend? Someone who is impartial and above all a good listener who asks questions that bring clarity and don’t see themselves as a “fixer”.

The only fix that ever lasts is one that both sides come to see as both reasonable and moderate and therefore able, as a result, to be used as a basis for both forgiveness and acceptance.

It was to take another fifteen years for me to find that counselor and so, within those ‘unattended years’, the apparently buried seed of jealousy began to germinate.

PLEASE seek an umpire in whom you both trust, one that is respectful and kind and do so…sooner, not later, and stop playing brinksmanship with your emotions.

“No one alone is wrong, no one alone is right. Love is ours, not flight” 

Treena Kerr

This week I read Treena’s poem Easter Day


  1. Kerryn Says: 10:38 am

    Graham, thanks for sharing so vulnerably of what was obviously a really tough time!
    I’m really thankful for a wonderful marriage with a truly special man. However, like every marriage we’ve had our challenges too. When I became extremely ill with “chronic invisible illnesses,” over 5 years ago, it changed much. Going from someone who was extremely active to almost constantly bedridden was immense. My feelings of inadequacy & unworthiness created jealousy when I’d see my beloved hubby head out to normal social events. I needed a counsellor! Obviously I prayed & sought God’s counsel, but I also needed “God in flesh” through a human counsellor. A wonderful Christian counsellor helped me renew my perspective on life again. She helped me see sense, as I grasped my new reality. I know that our marriage is doing as well as it is partly through the wonderful counsellor, but also through some deep conversations that we needed to have in our marriage to deal with our new situation. God has graciously guided us through with many precious prayer times to heal the wounds along the way too. I’m incredibly thankful for my counsellor & our Counsellor…… our trusted “umpires!”

  2. Mufaso Says: 8:05 am

    The emotion we call love is actually just infatuation, and requires very little nurturing, but the mindset of love requires a great deal of nurturing in the absence of emotions. You love whether or not you feel it. You make that commitment to the other person and follow through with actions despite it all.

  3. Anita Griggs Says: 12:37 pm

    So glad you made it through that tough patch way-back-when. Rough waters, to say the least. Yes, you could have written more, but it seems like Treena allowed her imagination to run wild, too. Had she had a mentor, as you came to experience later, she might have had a little more understanding of how a man thinks. Those of us who are older think, “Yeah, six letters in six months is about right.” (Smile.) Nevertheless, the flame of love has to be nurtured–especially with a long separation. What a great life lesson! How many of us are really prepared for this thing called marriage? I love your strong suggestion for mentoring. I just remembered a visual of my son and daughter-in-law sitting in my living room with kids all around and a movie playing in a darkened room. They texted each other from across the room! How times have changed.

  4. Lynn Severance Says: 12:57 am

    Graham, as awkward as sharing of this time in your and Treena’s lives has been for you, it is helpful to we, your readers. Your being vulnerable helps us delve more deeply, either in reflection or needed input for the “now” in our lives.

    In the video, you shared about the journey toward reconciliation having no material “stuff” around as distractions. True, that can help when communication needs to be clear. There was progress and a love renewed. Yet I hear, in what you share, that the soil where deeper roots can grow, needing nurture, was too rocky. That nurture could not break through. It can look like a matter has been dealt with because parts of it are. Yet emotions unexpressed – perhaps not even recognized – can fester.

    In your written text, you bring us to a further exhortation. Don’t let negative emotions in a relationship go unheeded without getting counsel from a trusted person who can see more clearly what has blinded us.

    We do live in a culture that allows clutter to shut out depth. . .or slow it down in being reached. Distractions are “convenient” but not conducive to reaching clarity. Although it took many years, I am grateful that you and Treena came to that time, and the counsel that set you free.

  5. Jean Says: 5:31 am

    Yes – it may be painful but releasing those feelings into discussion is most important. Oneness is an absolute that must be respected at all costs for the survival of any marriage. In fact, this truth is a good lesson right now for those newly married, engaged, or merely courting. Those vows -wherever they came from, whoever wrote them and instilled them in stone are true – better or worse and richer or poorer. They are not merely poetic rhetoric but words of truth, wisdom, and prophesy.

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