A healthy marriage perspective is important in maintaining a happy relationship. Recently, I heard a man use the all too common phrase “the old ball n’ chain” in reference to his wife. Oh, how damaging this phrase can be.
While at times, this phrase may seem to accurately describe the feeling of being tied down, held back, or limited in freedom by our spouse, in reality, it is quite false. The first inaccuracy is that it likens your spouse (a living breathing human being) to an inanimate object with no will of its own. A second inaccuracy is assuming that you are attached to this object by a shackle to which you have no key. Any marriage perspective that dehumanizes your spouse and removes your personal accountability is bound to damage the relationship.
It would serve you well to remember, and reinforce through your thoughts and actions, that your spouse is not an object. Your spouse is in fact a person just like you, who, rather than deliberately anchoring you to the ground is simply striving to live his/her own life. Any resistance you feel on your end is felt equally on your spouses end. Additionally, whether you realize it or not, the shackle was not forced upon you as a punishment. You chose to bind yourself to your spouse and you still have the key. Ultimately, remaining with your spouse is your choice so take accountability for that. Humanizing your spouse and retaining your personal accountability in these ways will certainly strengthen your relationship.
I propose, that in order to reinforce a healthy marriage perspective, adopt a more accurate analogy. For example, how might things be different if you were to replace the notion of being attached to a ball and chain with the thought of you being two mountain climbers. As you and your spouse navigate the rocky and ice-covered paths of life, you have chosen to bind yourselves together with a rope for safety. If you feel resistance from the other end of the rope, it means your partner is stuck and needs help, or that they view the path differently than you and feel that a course correction is in order. Either way, if there is resistance, it means that you get to pay more attention to your spouse and consider his/her thoughts, feelings, and needs as you press forward on your journey together.
With this healthy marriage perspective you will find that there is no mountain you can’t climb together.
One of the keys to healing marriage is knowing when to administer emotional first aid to your partner. This healing art is one of the great benefits of a LIFE Couples Retreat.
When your partner is hurting from something you might have said or done, it is not the time for you to justify, defend, or blame; this is like pouring salt into wounds (and gas onto the fire). Rather than pushing to resolve the issue or prove yourself right you must first sincerely find ways to reconnect with the other person. Through compassion, care, and effort to see their perspective and acknowledge their pain, you will find the key to unlock both your hearts.
Often, words can get in the way of healing marriage and hearts and nonverbal signals will be the more kind and welcome path to reconciliation. A willingness to simply listen, or a gentle touch of the hand will speak volumes. A quiet validation of their feelings will sooth tender wounds.
This offer of an olive branch will not always be easy when your emotions might be running high, but the alternative of further contention and hurt is far more painful. The ability to pour calming oil on troubled waters will help refine you and your relationship into gold, and will produce untold sweet fruit.
At a LIFE Marriage Retreat you will learn to naturally offer healing to your partner, and to receive that same care from them. Contact us and we can help you see the way to a healthy and happy relationship.
So remember, just as physical wounds need first aid and healing before returning to normal activities, tender hearts and feelings need to be addressed in healing marriages before solutions to issues can be sought and found.
Couples who call LIFE Marriage Retreats looking for help for their struggling family relationships are all unique in the details of their marital and family obstacles, yet virtually all of them share some common yearnings for their desired ideal relationship:
- Emotional Connection
- Repair of eroded Trust
- Healing of Resentment and Hurt (with Forgiveness being a prime component of that healing)
Our next several postings will deal, one at a time, with these indispensable relationship ideals.
Dr. Sue Johnson in her book, “Hold Me Tight” writes, “Distressed partners may use different words but they are always asking the same basic questions: ‘Are you there for me? Do I matter to you? Will you come when I need you, when I call’?”
In this world that is so quick to wound and marginalize we are all looking for sanctuary, that safe place of acceptance and understanding where our hearts can knit to that of another, and we can feel a part of a shared past, present, and future. We are looking for connection.
When we miss that union we tend to panic and in our need we often prod, and demand, usually pushing our partner even farther away. Or we might retreat into emotional isolation in an attempt to protect ourselves from more pain and disappointment.
Sometimes the world makes the mistake of believing that men have little need for emotional bonding, that it is a feminine thing. The truth is that every man and woman wants a healthy and fulfilling connection with the people they love, but many of us are clumsy in asking and giving such connection and most of us carry some fear of rejection that holds us back.
Take the time (and even the risk) of seeking and offering those sweet emotional ties to those you love. Much of the negative behavior we see in relationships springs from the unmet need to feel connected. Be patient with one another and seek to understand the pain and loneliness your partner might be feeling; move beyond defensiveness and attack and instead lovingly explore together connection needs and possibilities.
Together you will find sanctuary.
We were working with a couple from an Eastern state some years ago and the husband, whom I will call Rick, and I were standing outside on the deck overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Rick was thinking out loud, wondering how the downward spiral of his marriage relationship had started.
I looked at him and said, “Now Rick, do you really want to know the answer to that, because it might be painful to hear.” He paused but bravely answered, “Well, if I’m going to do anything about it, I guess I better know the truth.”
So I told him: “You allowed yourself to become obsolete as a husband.”
The word “Obsolete” can cut deeply into a person’s psyche and self-image. At work the last thing we want to be called is obsolete, because the unemployment line can’t be far off if that is how we are evaluated.
Just as a technology specialist can quickly become out of date if he or she does not keep up with new technologies, processes, and systems, a marriage partner can also become obsolete and out of touch in their relationship. You might call it the Dodo bird syndrome.
Perhaps you can relate to some of these patterns that bleed the life out of a marriage:
- Sometimes we don’t go to the trouble to find out what pleases our spouse and we coast on past good times.
- Often we don’t put forth the effort to grow as a communicator.
- We stop putting effort into creating special moments together through romance, dates, and moments of happy spontaneity.
- We damage trust and don’t know how to reestablish it.
- We don’t learn new skills that might help us to better manage our health, households and finances.
- We slip in our roles as parent, provider, or home manager because we don’t develop the skills or spend the requisite time.
- We stop growing toward that goal of a more refined human being.
Never make the mistake of believing that “natural ability” and being with your perfect “soul mate” will exempt you of the need to continue developing new insights, abilities, and talents that will translate to an ever growing and vibrant marriage relationship. It takes time and it takes effort. But it is time and effort that brings an infinitely joyful return on investment.
Many couples have found that the best step they have taken out of obsolescence and back into relationship relevance and fulfillment is a LIFE Marriage Retreat. It’s time to begin sharpening your saw as a part of a sacred relationship. If you can’t join us at a Retreat now, begin putting some additional effort into growing in your roles through observing your partner and what pleases them; reading the right relationship books (we suggest John Gottman as a good place to start), and just spending the time and focus on what really matters.
I am pleased to say that Rick, through dedication and effort, turned himself back into a relevant and beloved husband and father.
Obsolete is an ugly word. Don’t find yourself in such a painful place.