How YOU Can Re-Build Your Marriage
Written By: Mark Smith
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Do you feel trapped in your marriage? Would you walk if the price of walking weren't so incredibly steep? Have you lost hope in your ability to positively impact your sad and chronically stuck marriage? We get frequent individual sessions with cash paying miserably married people who plan to come just a few times basically to vent about their unloving partners and to seek some sort of absolution for their guilt before they file for divorce. Boy do such folks get the shock of their lives during their feedback sessions. We basically rock their worlds with a paradigm that is as difficult to argue with, as it is hard to swallow. If this is where you are at with your marriage, then try real hard to open your mind up for five challenging, hope building concepts that could very well be the beginning of your marriage's salvation and rebuilding.
1. Your marriage is about YOU; it has very little to do with your spouse! Huh? You lost me there, Doc. Didn't you hear me when I told you that my spouse was a stinker, a louse, a workaholic, an alcoholic, a liar and a cheat? Yeah, I heard you. Here's the thing though - we are all responsible for creating our own worlds. Of all the billions of people on the planet for you to choose to put solely in charge of loving you for a lifetime, you picked a stinker. Why would you do that to yourself? I know. It was not accident or bad luck; it was actually quite deliberate on your part. Once more, if you get divorced without figuring yourself out and fixing things, then spouse #2 will be a guaranteed stinker. How were you loved as a child? Were both of your parents present, loving and available? Was one parent angry or addictive? How did their shortcoming affect you? How were you wounded as a child? The answer to that question has everything to do with whom you will select as a spouse. Marriage is a re-enactment of childhood. During courtship we are so blinded by love that we don't see that our beloved actually has many of the worst qualities of our parents. That is what marriage is. Your life is on you. Marriage is fair. You get what you picked. Marriage is an opportunity to work at healing your deepest childhood wounds. You are not a victim. You need to proactively get to work on you. Don't worry if your spouse isn't ready to come to therapy. Most marriages can get immeasurably better with just one person doing the work.
2. Your pain-causing spouse is actually a gift to you that you should be thankful for. This is a hard one. When I first announce this particular paradigm-shifting concept to an angry, bitter spouse I generally get really big laughs. Hey, you married the right person. They gave you what you needed to get you working on your unresolved childhood stuff. There are never, ever any victims in marriage. Our spouses are our best teachers. The more we allow them to hurt us, the more we have opportunity to learn and grow. Nobody can hurt you in a relationship without your full cooperation. Bitterness is a cancer that will only hurt you. Acceptance and proactively taking responsibility for your own life will lead to peace and empowerment. The bad news is that your adult life is completely your responsibility; you can't shift the blame anywhere else. The good news is also that your adult life is completely your responsibility. You have the power to fix your life and no one has the power to victimize you; that really is awesome news! When clients finally take this powerful truth in, it changes their lives more than anything else that I can teach them. There are no bad guys. Rather than an evil SOB, they now see that their spouse is a wounded little kid walking around in an adult's body. They were who you needed to get you into recovery and to a much healthier place.
3. Your challenge is to pleasantly but firmly require your spouse to meet your needs - in effect, to get blood from the proverbial turnip. You unconsciously but deliberately selected a spouse who is uniquely unqualified to meet your needs. What made them wrong for you, made them right for you. The powerless, victimy, pouty person complains about their spouse without ever learning how to speak their spouse's language. What exactly are your needs? In effect by coming to your spouse (your parents' representative in your current life) with your needs, you are doing what you could not do as a child - directly asking for the love that you need. When a person with the same psychological DNA as your parents hears you and then meets your needs, then that really means something. That is a mature marriage at work.
4. Anger is a powerful force that can impact and change even the most resistant of spouses. Every spring on our way to Myrtle Beach, my family and I drive through tunnels in the mountains of North Carolina. The engineers who built those tunnels used a great deal of dynamite to blow the right sized hole in the mountain. A stubborn, resistant spouse is the unmovable, stone mountain, you are the engineer looking for a way through the mountain and the dynamite is your anger. The problem is that many of you only have enough dynamite to blow up a few coke bottles. Your anger is more like a firecracker; it gets lit up from time to time, but after all the color, smoke, and noise the mountain still stands completely unfazed. You need to get in touch with a whole lot more dynamite. And then you need to learn how to skillfully use all of that power lest you blow the whole mountain up. You need to learn how to set and stick by boundaries backed up by painful consequences. You need to develop a strong, direct, non-reactive voice that can't be intimidated by anything in your spouse's arsenal. With especially resistant spouses, separation is the powerful charge that blows away arrogance, denial, defensiveness and the unwillingness to work on issues. It takes courage to employ that tactic, but it has proven to be highly effective.
5. Be careful to not triangle a third party into your conflict. Relationships between two people are often like a stool with just two legs; it doesn't work very well. That is when a third leg to the stool is instinctively introduced to help bring stability into the system. The classic third party is the extramarital affair. An affair is an illusion. It is blindly jumping into a new overly idealized love relationship before you have finished your business with the current real life relationship. It will take a bad situation and turn it into an absolute disaster. Guard your hearts. If you taste the forbidden fruit of an affair you will live to regret it. Another classic third party is a child. Many times as dad is working or drinking, mom sinks her hooks way too deeply into junior, which is extremely damaging. Take care of your business directly with your spouse even if it is difficult. If a third party is needed, make it a skilled and objective therapist.
6. The recovery work that you do will splash over onto your spouse. Recovery is simply knowing the truth about your issues and then working hard on them. Whatever your issues are, as you change, everybody around you will change as well. When one person is in therapy, everybody around them is in therapy too; they just get it for free. Do not wait for your spouse to be ready to come to therapy before starting if you are ready. It isn't about them; it's about you. As you introduce being accepting and non-judgmental, having a pleasant but powerful voice, placing your vulnerable needs at the feet of your spouse, humbly and non-defensively owning your own stuff without pointing fingers, changing dysfunctional patterns, being accountable, being positive, valuing your spouse and generally being happier, it will impact your marriage in a very positive and powerful way. Get your recovery process started this week; call us at 844-2442 and we will help you to figure out the truth about you and what you need to be working on to improve you and your marriage.
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