Lessons Learned: The Secrets of a Happy Marriage (Acknowledgment)

#4- Tears of Acknowledgment

At our LIFE Couples Retreats we have lots of fun, plenty of excitement, and just the right dose of healthy relaxation.

We also experience a few tears. As a couple strives to break loose from the self-imposed prisons that have walled them off from one another, visiting honesty and feelings again can bring a tear of regret and remembered pain even as hope begins to swell in their hearts.

Such tears have their place in the healing process. Tears of Joy

There are other tears we often see from couples who have committed themselves to a new way of being in their relationship–I refer to them as “Tears of Acknowledgment.” They represent, for me, the best moments of a Retreat.

We all share a deep and human need to be Understood; to be Valued; to be Validated; to be Acknowledged.

Have you ever had a disagreement with a loved one and heard, “What is it you can’t understand? It’s so simple! Why can’t you see that?” Frequently we might be thinking the same thing about them, “How dense can you be that you can’t see what I see?”

Our perception is our reality and as open to other views and possibilities as we might believe ourselves to be, for most of us it is hard to really see (or want to see) very far beyond our own beliefs, experiences, and perceptions.

Do you see a duck in the picture? Or a rabbit? Feathers or Fur, should we belittle or mistrust someone whose perception differs from ours?

When two people with different perceptions are brought together, the potential for frustrations, irritations, and misunderstandings is overwhelming. Welcome to marriage.

In our experience even as a couple is learning new communication skills and techniques they are easily pulled back into former habits of defensiveness and the almost overwhelming need to be right. They are lost in their own vantage point and cannot imagine another.

Thus while some would focus on teaching a couple how to better state their view or belief (which is, indeed, important), it is even more crucial that each partner become adept at empathy, at “seeing through their partner’s eyes” to better understand their beliefs and behaviors. This takes a humility that is wonderful in its power and effectiveness to heal and reopen a relationship and hearts.

Do you have what it takes to acknowledge your partner and their point of view, even when you do not agree with it? Can you honestly say to another person, “I am anxious to understand your point of view, and for you to understand mine. Can you help me to see what you see?”

Can you acknowledge and validate your loved ones? If you can, you too will see relief come into their eyes and feel their tears of gratitude and loving connection. And you will also get a big bonus: As you open yourself to other points of view, you will find better solutions to problems and challenges.

Lessons Learned: The Secrets of a Happy Marriage (Authenticity)

Rule #1- Be Authentic Remember the story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” in which a vain and gullible King is tricked into parading in front of his loyal subjects in his birthday suit, believing he isEmperors New really wearing the latest in high fashion that only the most refined eyes will be able to see? As everyone does their best to pretend that they see him dressed in a gorgeous royal costume (because how traumatic would it be to admit they are less perceptive than their neighbors and see only a naked fat man?) it is left to a young boy to finally shout out incredulously, “Hey, that guy doesn’t have any clothes on!” and bring the facade to an embarrassing end.

Marriage and other close relationships can feel like that. Sometimes I’ve done my best to wear just the right mask or project a particular image that I hope will fool the important people in my life. This has been about as successful as if I had poked a geranium into my hatband and tried to pass as a potted plant. My attempts to “control my own spin” are even less successful than that of the latest Hollywood hottie who pays thousands of dollars for the right press and photo ops, and wonders why they keep getting lampooned in comedic Top 10 lists.

At our Marriage Retreats we often see people who have exhausted themselves and those they love by attempting to hide and keep others at arms length. The truth is that any attempts to fake out those who love and care about us are, thankfully, doomed to failure. They might play along with us for a while, but they know us too well and our costumes never fit quite as well as we might want to believe. Plus, since it is impossible to truly love an illusion, they will sooner or later tire of being in relationship with a wisp of smoke or a desert mirage and will demand something more substantial to hold on to, even if that substance includes some warts and weaknesses.

In my moments of foolish belief that I have my loved ones fooled, the inevitable collapse of my stage set has been perhaps momentarily painful, but also enormously liberating. I call these times my “Lucy Moments.” Remember the great “I Love Lucy” episodes where Lucy tried desperately to be something she wasn’t whether cabaret singer, chocolate maker, or pitch-woman for Vitameatavegamin  She never could quite pull off the deception, and after embarrassing herself was soon back to being the authentic Lucy that Ricky and her friends could truly love.

In my attempts to pretend and hide behind my perfect and self-sufficient John Wayne facade I too hit bad notes, make a mess of the bon-bons and call the health drink migaveetametaman, and soon discover that the walls I have built and the masks I have worn have effectively only kept me from experiencing the exquisitely nuanced feelings and emotions of a healthy relationship.

The good news is that being “found out” isn’t nearly as bad or painful as an emperor suddenly feeling the chill in his nether regions and hearing his kingdom laughing at him. Instead, it is  liberation from self-imposed chains and a new opportunity to connect with what really matters. In my experience, those who care about me only love me more when they know the real and vulnerable me. From that safe and firm foundation I can then move on to building a better me and a better relationship.

It is easiest to be our authentic selves when we feel safe in our relationships, knowing that we are not being judged or being offered only conditional love. We will talk about creating that safety in later postings.