Marital, Family or Individual Therapist serving the Indianapolis, Carmel, Fishers, Westfield and Noblesville communities in Indiana



Marital Nightmares
Written By: Mark Smith


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Bad things can happen when you least expect them to. I had one such unexpected, moderately nightmarish experience last Sunday. While tooling home on my Harley a young man inched out into my lane. When I slammed on my brakes my bike kept going but I hit the pavement with a very sickening and painful thud. When the upset young man began to apologize profusely it was all I could do was spit out "911". One painful broken rib, one slightly collapsed lung, one sleepless night in the hospital and I was sent home with only Ibuprofen to comfort me. All in all a little slice of the unpleasantness that life serves up to every one of us from time to time.

Here is a startling and frightening truth…almost every marriage turns into an excruciatingly painful nightmare (eventually), at least for a season. This is not negativity on my part, just ask anyone who has been married a long time. In one of my therapy groups this week a new client was pouring out her heart about her particular fresh, raw, shocking nightmare when I asked the other group members to share their marital nightmares. Every one of them had a painful story. Everyone does. For some it is the pain of a nuclear bomb seemingly annihilating everything in their lives while for others the marital pain is very much like the slow misery of Chinese water torture.

I have had several new clients this week that came into therapy with the innocence and naivety of love struck 22 year olds. As the first little bit of their marital nightmares have started to play out they found false safety and security by burying their heads in the sand of denial. At times I feel sort of bad when my job requires me to grab Mr. and Mrs. Ostrich by their necks, pull them out of the protection of their denial and into the harsh reality that is love, marriage and dating in our culture. The wide eyed purity, sweetness and wholesome All-American goodness that get swooned about in the wedding ceremonies of young people are the stuff of fairy tales.

Marriage is designed to break down psychological defenses. Nature wants to heal the many unresolved issues from our childhoods. You WILL marry a hidden version of your parents’ worse and most hurtful qualities. I wish that weren’t so but it is the truth. The more you are head over heels about someone the more they are actually like your parents and the more they will someday rip your heart out. We all marry our worst nightmares sneakily disguised as perfect love objects. We then get 5 to 10 years of relative bliss, ease and happiness. It does not last. It is a normal relationship phase called ‘enmeshment’. It wears off to eventually be replaced by distance, unresolved conflict, marital warfare and in many cases apathy or repulsion. Again, if you don’t know what I’m talking about you haven’t been married long enough.

Here is the kicker, though…the nightmare is actually a gift and a blessing in disguise! Who knew? Seriously, your marital nightmare is the universe offering you an opportunity to do some serious work on the deepest wounds in the deepest little boy or little girl in your very core. You are not being victimized by your spouse, I don’t care what horrible thing that they have done. We always pick the right person for the purpose of helping us to our most deeply buried wounds. We build and invent our own lives and marriages. So stop pointing fingers in moral outrage. The bottom line in your marital drama has just begun. Try to put the reactivity, the blame, the victim stance, the judgment and the shaming away as you explore what the reality of who you chose, where they came from, who you are, where you came from and how you can proactively learn and heal from it all.

I am now a week distanced from my motorcycle nightmare. It has been hard. With the broken rib a sneeze felt like being stabbed in the back with a sword. I have a bruise on my hip the size of a dodge ball. But I am healing. I am getting better. Horrible, unexpected, deep, massive wounds will heal. You will live to see better days. I am thinking of a former client of mine who went through an extended, ridiculously nightmarish marital drama who now two years later is happy, well adjusted, at peace and not bitter (most of the time). What you are going through is normal. Everyone goes through something like you are going through eventually. Just ask yourself what you can learn about yourself, your childhood and your choices. It is all good if you squeeze all the insight that you can out of it. And, by the way, watch out for us motorcycle guys, we are everywhere!

Indianapolis Marriage Counseling Information

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This article was authored by Family Tree Counseling Associates, a marriage, individual and family counseling center serving the Indianapolis, Carmel, Fishers, Westfield and Noblesville communities in Indiana. If you would like to contact us, please fill out a contact us form or call us at 317-844-2442.
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