by Seth Eisenberg
Elvis Aaron Presley, one of the most popular entertainers of the 20th century, would have been 76 today. Known simply as “Elvis” or “the King,” long before the CNN talk show host began broadcasting on cable, Presley’s performances continue to thrill fans worldwide.
THE King’s last big hit was the song “Suspicious Minds,” written by Mark James. His release took the song to number one in 1969 and remains one of the 100 Greatest Songs of All Time, according to Rolling Stone.
We’re caught in a trap
I can’t walk out
Because I love you too much baby
Why can’t you see
What you’re doing to me
When you don’t believe a word I say?
Elvis Presley, Suspicious Minds
Although gospel music was the foundation of many of Elvis Presley’s biggest hits, it’s unlikely the King of Rock and Roll realized the words he popularized in 1969 would remain a central theme of marriage and relationship education decades after his tragic death in 1977. Elvis Presley was just 42 when he died.
“Suspicious Minds” is about “emotional entrapment within a dysfunctional relationship,” wrote Michelle Habell-Pallan in the 2006 Chicano Cultural Studies Reader.
Relationship and marriage education teaches that what Habell-Pallan calls “dysfunctional,” is often a very normal aspect of what couples learn to resolve in creating lasting, healthy, joyful love relationships.
In every relationship, each person brings unique history, hopes, and fears along with the often unspoken expectation that they will never again experience the painful events from their past. For those who found themselves hurt by lies and deceit, it makes perfect sense that they’d look for evidence, no matter how remote or discreet, that their partner in the present is going to be deceitful. For those who experienced rage or even violence, they are likely to search for those signals. Those who suffered betrayal, disconnection, or disrespect will look for that. And so on.
Those suspicious minds are not a sign of dysfunction, but part of our natural programming to protect ourselves from danger and to survive.
Healing, along with deeper feelings of love, intimacy and connection, become possible when it’s safe for couples to confide their fears in each other. Through that process, they have the opportunity to recognize that the person in their life today is not the source of the pain and anguish from the past and take responsibility for not handing the bill from the past to their partner of the present.
For the partner, it’s a chance to understand the previous experiences of a loved one and help bring healing as a foundation of loving, protecting and actively nurturing each other.
The King never had a chance to find the healing that could have saved his life. His birthday is a chance to say thank you for the insights he helped bring many others.
Happy Birthday, Elvis. And thank you.
Seth Eisenberg is President of the nonprofit PAIRS Foundation in Weston, Florida, an industry leader in relationship and marriage education.