Castle Panic

Posted on April 29, 2019


My family has a great fondness for board games.  In recent years, we have taken to playing more cooperative games.  In these games you either win or lose together rather than have one player win and the others lose.  One of those games is Castle Panic.  The game involves trying to defend your castle together against an onslaught of goblins, orcs, and trolls.  You also have to deal with things like giant boulders taking out portions of your castle.  The object of the game is to take out all of the attacking enemies before they break down your walls and destroy your towers.  You win if there is any tower in your castle left standing when all of the enemies are defeated.  You lose if all of your towers get destroyed.

My wife and I were recently on vacation together and playing Castle Panic together.  As we approaching the end of the game and were close to victory, we had lost a couple of our towers during the course of the game.  My wife made the comment that she wanted all of our towers back so our castle would be completely intact at the end of the game.  I thought, there is a metaphor for marriage in there.

When a significant event happens that damages a marriage (e.g. affairs, secrets), there is a grieving process.  We want our castle back intact the way it was.  We want the event undone.  Turn the clock back so that it never happened.  Trust has been damaged and it has weakened the structure of the castle.

There are a few things here that are simultaneously true.   First, it happened.  The damage is real.  This is now part of your story.  Second, you can rebuild your castle if you are both willing to do the hard work.  In making sense of what has happened, it is important to figure out how the orcs got through the walls and put up boundaries to keep that from happening again.

Part of my practice is treating sexual addiction.  Usually early on in treatment, we will create a sobriety development plan, sometimes called a three circle plan.  The plan has three concentric rings with the abstinence list in the center, the boundaries list in the middle ring, and the healthy life plan in the outer ring.  As with a castle, these are the walls that protect you from relapse.

The bottom line here is that rebuilding trust is possible, but the rebuilding process is neither binary nor linear.  It is reestablished brick by brick.  If you are the one who broke the trust, your partner may be experiencing trauma and responding accordingly.  When something triggers your partner’s trauma, respond with transparency, compassion, empathy, and understanding and the rebuilding goes much faster.  If you respond with anger and defensiveness, the trust continues to erode.

Finally, it is usually a good idea to employ a licensed contractor who has experience rebuilding castles.  The integrity of your castle is worth it.