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Healthy People, Healthy Marriages - 6/15/2009

There is a rule of thumb that explains why most marriages fail, and many  others consist of people who only tolerate one another.  The rule is, “The more you feel, the more you fear”.  That the moment you let your feelings out toward someone,  you give that individual power over you.  In effect, you become victim of their criticism, rejection, or control.  As a result, many individuals unconsciously restrict themselves from feeling or fully expressing their love, based on the logical, but erroneous, thought that, “If I love less, I’ll fear less and hurt less.”  Unfortunately, the decreased hurt then becomes a reward that reinforces you being distant and less emotionally involved.  How many spouses have you heard say, “When my spouse is away, I’m more at ease.”  Your initial interpretation might be they’re happier without them, but  it may actually reflect how anxious togetherness makes them.  For example, a couple goes on vacation, they get close and share emotionally.  You might predict their relationship would improve, but that isn’t what happens.  Over time, the closeness which resulted from them having lowered their guard, increases their fears.  Their knee-jerk reaction is to reestablish distance.  Thus, they say things such as, “You don’t love me”, or “You just see me as a paycheck”, or, “All you want from me is to cook your meals and go to bed.”  In most instances, these statements quickly diminish the positive feelings that originally created their fears.

Based on this, it would appear that relationships can’t win for losing.  The moment you feel close, you see yourself as vulnerable, go on guard and negatively perceive your spouse’s expressions,  tone of voice and body language.  You literally search for faults.  Why?  Because when you care, everything they do, or don’t do,  determines your emotional worth.  That’s a lot of power to give anybody!  It’s no wonder you get angry or detached.   You’re that frightened.  Therefore, you fight back or take flight, i.e., don’t voice what you think, avoid conflict, swallow your pride and hate yourself because you have no backbone.  If you do stand up, you later apologize and go back to walking a tightrope.  No wonder you build up resentments, act passive-aggressively or get even by having affairs, avoiding sexual intercourse and restricting your emotions.  This applies to both men and women, who are equally angry and frightened of being emotionally hurt.  It’s this fear that disallows both sexes from having healthy, meaningful relationships.  

So, what’s the solution?  If you love, you fear.  If you fear, you’re not able to love.  It sounds as though you’re trapped.  But, you aren’t.  Another rule of thumb can save you:  “You Get Who You Are”.  Accordingly, neurotic people marry neurotic people and have neurotic marriages, dysfunctional people marry and have dysfunctional marriages and healthy people marry and have healthy marriages.  There’s your answer: get healthy.  It will result in you finding a healthy partner and creating a healthy marriage.  

Before you ask, let me describe a healthy person. He’s one who consolidates what he thinks, knows and wants with what he feels and fears.  In other words, he integrates his intellectual and emotional selves.  For example, ask any person what they want from a  marriage, they’ll all say the same thing, “A loving relationship, where two people are honest with and nurture one another.”  No one would say, “I want to argue, resent and be frightened to share what I think or feel.”  But that’s often the way they are, because of their  emotional fears. Conversely, a healthy person learns to recognize and accept his emotions and realizes they aren’t necessarily signs of weakness.  He knows he’s okay, because of and in spite of them.  Consequently, he has less to fear and less to prove.  He can openly say what he thinks and ask for what he wants without anger or threats.  He sets limits for himself and refuses to do things that make him feel guilty, controlled or inadequate.  

To become a healthy person takes 1) resolve, effort and commitment to a process that initially causes pain, because honest introspection is hurtful.; 2). a willingness to alter old behaviors and coping techniques, which is difficult, because emotional growth consists of three steps forward and two steps back.  But it doesn’t end there.  3) You often pay another price.  Not everyone will appreciate you becoming a whole person.  They may feel threatened by your growth, but  the difference will be  that they no longer determine your sense of adequacy.  Therefore, you’ll be able to say, “You can get mad or disagree and  I’ll still love you and want our marriage.  However, I’m no longer terrified of losing your love.  It may cause me to be sad and disappointed, but I’ll survive.  I now know what I want from a marriage and a spouse and, for the first time in my life, I know I deserve it.”  

Those are the magic words that can help your marriage to survive and your spouse to be glad it did.  But, to voice them, you have to be a whole, healthy person

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