How to Make Marriage Work Part Two
How to Make Marriage Work Part 2
As we continue our series on how to save your marriage and improve your relationship with your spouse, let’s start by asking some reflection questions about the status of your relationship (please be honest – you owe it to yourself).
Do you feel that your marriage is in trouble?
Are you facing any problems that you think are straining your relationship?
Do you long for deeper intimacy with your spouse?
Let’s drill a little deeper as we prepare to discover the root causes of most marriage problems and how to deal with them:
Are you having a hard time resolving marital conflicts?
Do you often give-in during an argument to keep your partner from getting angry, or do you win arguments with your partner by becoming angry and defensive?
Are you constantly feeling numb and shut down?
Are anger and resentment present in your marriage as a result of unresolved relationship problems but despite the conflict you still love each other?
Does your marriage seem “fine” until conflict arises?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you need to find a lasting solution before those small relationship problems grow into great, big marriage problems.
Many marriage and relationship problems are caused by a mutual fear of rejection, the loss of the other spouse’s love, and/or the loss of one’s personal identity (counselors call this Engulfment).
Each partner develops protection mechanisms and controls the degree of love and affection that they give and receive in order to avoid being hurt.
So when the above fears are triggered, a common reaction is to raise the defenses and try to control your spouse’s behavior. This produces anger, judgment, blame, resistance denial, and withdrawal, creating an environment in which it is difficult for love to survive let alone flourish.
In this series, we will discover an effective process for connecting with yourself in a positive way that begins improving your relationship immediately.
Often times, one person in the relationship wants to work on things but the other doesn’t. But by following this process, you can make a difference in your marriage even you’re the only one working on it right now.
Here is the six step process:
1. Willingness to accept and take responsibility for your own feelings and actions
2. Choose to learn
3. Discuss your feelings
4. Pray – talk with God and seek his wisdom
5. Be proactive (instead of reactive) by choosing to take loving action
6. Evaluate the outcome of your actions and adjust accordingly
Now let’s explore each of these six steps a little deeper.
Step 1: Willingness to accept and take responsibility for your own feelings and actions
As you begin the journey of connecting with yourself (because you really only have control over yourself and your decisions), it is essential for you to take responsibility for your feelings.
Because this helps to keep you from slipping into a pattern of reaction in which you become protective, controlling and defensive. Before you can change how you behave in your marriage relationship, you must be aware of any harbored fears that trigger undesirable reactions. To do this, ask yourself the following questions:
What do I feel when my spouse gets angry and judgmental towards me?
How does it feel when my spouse withdraws, shuts down or seems resistant towards me?
Take a moment to breathe and assess what happens to your body when fears of rejection or engulfment are triggered. Pay attention to the way your stomach, legs, throat and heart feel. Are you charged with adrenalin? Do you go into fight or flight mode?
The purpose of the above exercise is for you to discover how you react to the fears of rejection and engulfment.
It is important to understand what triggers those fears so you can make a conscious decision to be proactive instead of reactive.
If your partner rejects or tries to control you, then it is likely you will feel lonely or helpless. And nobody wants to feel this way.
While some people try to control their spouse’s behavior by being angry and judgmental, others simply choose to give-in. Painful feelings of rejection and loneliness often lead to substance abuse, or other addictions or behaviors, in an effort to numb the hurt.
Becoming aware of these feelings and what’s causing them, is the first step to being freed from this self-destructive situation.
When this happens, you are more able to manage external pressure instead of being controlled by it and reacting in negative ways. Make sense?
So following this relationship advice will better prepare you to deal with the root marriage problems that are causing trouble in your relationship, and thus begins the process of saving your marriage.
I’ll continue covering the five remaining steps of how to make marriage work in our next post.