I can see that my wife and I are both scared we aren't good enough, and that fear is causing the problems in our marriage. I can see how her defensiveness triggers my fear of being rejected. The more she pulls back, the more rejected I feel. This is a vicious cycle of reaction, fear, defensiveness, score-keeping and selfishness. How do we get off this merry-go-round?
The first step in fixing your relationship is for each of you to fix your own fear-based thinking.
This is actually the purpose of your significant-other relationship.This person is in your life to help you learn and grow. To do this, they are going to stretch you, test you, try you, push your buttons and sometimes rip you apart, all in an effort to show you your fears and give you the chance to grow out of them. Your marriage is part of your perfect life classroom.
I know this because everything in your life is.
The universe knew exactly what kinds of challenges you would need to become the person you are meant to be. So you were attracted to the person who would best teach you those lessons. This means all the conflict in your relationship right now is there for a reason. It is there to give you the opportunity to learn something.
If the conflict won't go away, you haven't learned the lesson yet.
When you start seeing every fight and every misunderstanding accurately, as a lesson to help you grow, it will change everything. You will finally be seeing your relationship accurately.
It has been fascinating to see that every couple I work with has the perfect storm when it comes to their fears (in that they perfectly trigger each other). The bad behavior created by his core fear perfectly triggers her core fear, and the bad behavior her core fear creates, perfectly triggers his core fear.
This creates an amazing yet very challenging environment for learning to love.
Your No. 1 job here is to work on your own self-esteem, so you can stop being afraid and become more loving. This is something you must do for yourself and by yourself. It is a wonderful thing if you have a partner who validates you and quiets your fears, but you can't depend on someone else to keep your bucket full. They cannot validate you or love on you enough to make up for what you are letting leak out the other side if you don’t see your value yourself.
Your partner cannot give you self-esteem. If you continue to expect your spouse to make you feel loved and worthy, you are setting them up for failure. In the end, you will still feel inadequate and you will blame them, since you unfairly made them responsible — this is totally unfair.
Are you doing this to your spouse? Are you angry at them because you feel inadequate? Are you making that their fault?
You might think you feel fine about yourself, and it is only your spouse’s criticism, disappointment or lack of interest in you that is the problem. But if you didn’t already subconsciously fear you aren’t good enough or wanted, none of those things would bother you.
You are bothered because their behavior is triggering your subconscious fear. Think about it.
No one can make you feel inadequate, ripped off, mistreated (or anything else) without your permission. Their comments or behavior are only making you feel inadequate and scared because you are already feeling inadequate and scared at the subconscious level. But you are blaming them for not loving you enough or not treating you better, because you think if they just did those things you’d feel better.
I hate to tell you this — even if you spouse were to try harder to meet your needs and show you more love, your subconscious fears of being inadequate, unloved or unwanted will still be there. You must fix this yourself.
Your spouse will never be able to do everything perfectly enough that your subconscious, score-keeping, selfish, scared, mind won’t still find fault with them and get offended. They can't tell you enough, have sex with you enough, serve you or do anything enough to make up for your fears.
(They may even subconsciously know they will never be enough to make you happy and they may have given up trying.)
You must change these two things if you want a healthy relationship.
I have written a lot of articles about choosing to see your value accurately as infinite and absolute, as an irreplaceable one-of-a-kind diamond that has the same value no matter the setting. But it comes down to this one simple decision, which you must make every minute, of every day. You must choose how you will see yourself — and there are only two options.
This choice is in your power to make every moment of every day, but you must understand if you don’t consciously choose how you will value yourself, your subconscious mind will decide for you, and it will usually choose option 1.
1. You must practice reminding yourself throughout the day that your value isn’t on the line and nothing anyone says, does or thinks can change it. You must choose to feel safe and loved.
Then you have to give this to your spouse, too. You must choose to see them as an irreplaceable, one-of-a-kind, infinite, absolute, divine, amazing student in the classroom of life, good enough as they are right now too.
2. You must choose to see them as the same as you.
They have faults, but so do you. They may be hard to live with sometimes, but so are you. They may treat you badly at times (in ways that you don’t treat them badly), but I guarantee that you treat them badly in other ways.
3. You cannot cast stones or cast them as the bad guy.
Faults, mistakes, weaknesses, selfishness, rudeness, rejection, anger issues, defensiveness and all the other kinds of immature and mean behavior we humans are capable of (that your spouse is guilty of) only makes them exactly like you ...flawed ... but infinitely and absolutely valuable anyway.
Your marriage will only thrive if you can see these truths in each other. You must see your spouse accurately and remember when they let you down, hurt you, behave badly or reject you at times, this doesn't mean anything ... except that he or she is human and needs to keep learning ... just like you.
Don't take it personally and create unnecessary defensive drama or conflict. Choose to overlook most of this behavior because you want yours overlooked too.
The first step towards forgiving each other and mending your marriage is just seeing each other accurately. Work on this, and next week we will address forgiveness at a deeper level.
You can do this.
(This article is not directed at those with abusive spouses. This is about common, garden-variety, fear-based, bad behavior and marriage problems.)
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of www.claritypointcoaching.com. She is a sought-after life coach and popular speaker. She offers free coaching calls every Tuesday night and a free Fear Assessment online.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.