Making Marriage Work, Part 2By Dr. Margaret Paul
December 31, 2006
Is your marriage is in trouble or do you want more intimacy than you currently have?
(This is part 2 of a 5-part series on making marriage work)
Are you in a long-term relationship where you are either fighting some or much of the time or feeling distant, disconnected, and without passion? Or, do you find yourselves going along fine until a conflict arises, and then you can't seem to find way to resolve it? Do you either try to win by getting angry and defensive, or give in to avoid the other's anger and defensiveness? Do you find yourself shut down, numbed out, or resistant much of the time? Do you and your partner love each other, but resentment is building because of all the unresolved conflicts and communication problems?
Relationship issues occur when the dual fears of loss of another's love (rejection) and loss of self (engulfment) have been triggered.
Most people have learned protective ways of trying to have control over getting the love you need and avoiding the pain you believe you can't handle. As soon as one of these fears is triggered, you might automatically go into your learned ways of protecting against pain and trying to control the other person into being the way you want them to be. When you get angry, give in, withdraw or resist, this protective, controlling behavior often activates your partner's protective controlling behavior. The interactions that follow may be filled with anger, blame, judgment, defensiveness, explaining, denying, withdrawal and resistance. Love does not flourish in the face of these difficult interactions.
In this series, I will show you how the 6-Step process of Inner Bonding can be used to heal your relationship.
A simplified version of The Six Steps are:
1. Willingness to feel your painful feelings and take responsibility for them
2. Choose the intent to learn
3. Dialogue with the feelings
4. Dialogue with your Higher Power
5. Take loving action
6. Evaluate the action.
We will start with Step One of Inner Bonding. In Step One, you choose to be willing to feel your painful feelings and take responsibility for them, rather than turn to protective, controlling, addictive behavior.
You cannot change your automatic reactive behaviors until you become aware of the feelings of fear and anxiety that trigger them.
What do you feel in your body when someone gets angry, blaming, or judgmental toward you?
What do you feel in your body when someone shuts down, withdraws, or becomes resistant toward you?
Take a moment to tune into your body and see what it feels like when your fears of rejection or engulfment become triggered. What happens in your stomach, your throat, your heart, your arms and legs? Does your body fill with adrenaline and go into the fight, flight or freeze reaction?
You cannot begin to react differently when your fears of rejection or engulfment are triggered until you know that fear is being activated. You will unconsciously continue to respond with your learned protections until you become conscious of what you are protecting against.
We have all learned many ways of avoiding feeling and being conscious of our feelings.
All addictive behavior - substance abuse, process addictions, reactive behavior toward others, and judgmental thoughts toward ourselves - are ways of avoiding feelings the deep loneliness and heartache, as well as feeling our helplessness over the other person's behavior and feelings, that is at the core of all addictive behaviors. When your partner behaves in some rejecting or controlling way toward you, this deep loneliness, heartache, and helplessness is activated. But these are such difficult feelings to feel that most of us will turn to our learned addictive behaviors to avoid them. We will either try to have control over the other person by getting angry, judgmental or giving in, or we will try to control the pain of the loneliness, heartache, and helplessness with substance and process addictions.
The Path to Healing
The only way out of this is to be willing to feel the very challenging feelings of loneliness and heartache, and of helplessness over others, and learn to manage these feelings rather than avoid them. If you were to learn to accept and manage these feelings, rather than turn to your learned protective controlling behaviors, you would begin to change the dysfunctional relationship system that may be eroding your marriage.
The Six-Step Inner Bonding process is a process for moving out of your automatic reactive behavior and into kindness and compassion toward yourself and your partner. The remaining articles in this series will show you how to do this.
Heal your relationship with Dr. Margaret’s 30-Day online relationship course: Wildly, Deeply, Joyously in Love.
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Today, notice if your intent is to get love or approval from others or to give love to yourself and others. Trying to get love or approval will always end up causing suffering. Giving love to yourself and others brings joy.
By Dr. Margaret Paul