I hope that my last three articles have conveyed two very specific messages. The first is that if you genuinely want your relationship or marriage to succeed you must accept the fact that the only person you can change is you. The second is: Successful marriages require that you be open, vulnerable and authentic when dealing with your partner. But, be aware that this isn’t an easy task. Before you can be transparent, you need to deal with your fear of emotion exposure.
There are, of course, exceptions, but in most cases the explanations you gave yourself in the past, after you hid your mistakes and failings, held your tongue and avoided standing up for your beliefs, or overreacted when defending yourself, were lies. They were your way of denying feelings of weakness, inadequacy and insufficiency from others, but mostly from yourself. Thoughts and statements such as, “if I speak up he or she will only get more angry, so it isn’t worth it,” “they’ll wind up getting over it in a couple days, so why rock the boat,” or “I don’t make up; I get even,” all are attempts to avoid facing any feelings of inadequacy.
Inside, however, you know the truth. That’s the reason many of you inevitably resort to other hiding techniques. You turn to excessive use of alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, philandering, or become a hypochondriacal, anxious, depressed or hostile human being. For a while, they may provide you with something else to focus on but, in the end, they wind up destroying their container, i.e., you. In effect they’re your unconscious way of punishing yourself for lacking the courage to accept and openly expose the person you are.
Even when you seem on the surface to successfully deceive the world, i.e., you become financially successful and gain the respect of a multitude of people, you know that you’re living a lie. Long term, your hiding techniques always fail and negatively impact your emotional happiness and interpersonal relationships. It’s the price you pay for the pain you’ve temporally avoided.
To alter this pattern, you have no choice but to recognize, accept, and openly share you with all your self-perceived shortcomings. Your new mantras governing your life have to be:
1) I will behave in accordance with my desires, as opposed to my fears.
2) I will allow myself to face, feel and experience whatever stress, uncomfortableness or painful feelings I encounter, without immediately defending or reacting to them.
3) I will not permit the emotions I feel today to escalate to the point that they destroy my tomorrows.
4) I will create a future I’ve always desired, instead of a past I’ll lament.
5) I will not respond to what others in the world demand, provoke or want me to do, but instead will do whatever I can to be in control of me, to love me and to show me to the world.
You simply need to be honest and open with regard to your emotions when dealing with others whose love and respect you desire. It’s of no matter whether the person you’re interacting with is your friend, lover, parent or
spouse, your behavior has to be transparent. This approach eliminates deception, resentment, malice and anger toward others and yourself. Although many of your actions and words will be the same or similar to what you’ve demonstrated in the past, the attitude that accompanies it will be vastly different. Where previously you felt and presented yourself as a victim, this new orientation will cause you to feel and be perceived as proactive and genuine.
Please note, however, that being open and honest does not give you carte blanche permission to injure or destroy others, but it demands that you neither prostitute nor subjugate yourself. No matter how much you need love and acceptance, when you obtain it on the basis of false pretenses, it loses its inherent value, and you come to resent the individual whose love you’ve gained and yourself for selling yourself short.
To gain love that lasts, you must take control of you. No matter how others respond, you have to remember that their behavior does not define you and should not cause you to behave in a negative manner. Your task, when you truly love a person, is to deal with the nature of their behavior, not its content.
Let me give you an example. Hypothetically, your spouse checks your mail, looks through your telephone bills and questions each phone number with which the spouse is not familiar. Your natural response might be to get angry, berate him or her, accuse the spouse of not trusting you and then retaliate by punishing or rejecting him or her. Will that get you the love you want? Of course not, but it might elicit overt or covert retaliatory anger. Why, because, both of you are dealing with the facts, i.e., the content of your partner’s actions; not his or her underlying emotions.
You need to take a new approach: one that will enable you to see that the spouse who checks phone messages really is revealing more about himself or herself than you. It’s evident that the spouse is saying, “I’m a needy, emotionally dependent person. I’m scared you don’t love me, and I’m trying to blame my fear on your behavior, rather than deal with my own insecurities.” He or she is “shouting,” “There’s a hole inside me. I feel empty, lonely and unloved, because I don’t believe you care.” He or she needs reassurance, not anger or animosity.
Be aware, that when you or your spouse become defensive and justify your actions based on your partner’s behavior, you avoid dealing with each other’s emotions. You forget that both of you are vulnerable human beings with feelings and desires that easily are hurt and frequently misinterpreted. What is worse, the price you pay because of this behavior is that you never focus on or solve your own problem.
What I’m asking is that you stop hiding behind the facts; no longer play the victim or victimizer; be proactive and never lose sight of your primary goal, to be loved. This does not imply that you comply or prostitute yourself to gain acceptance. There are limits behind which no emotionally healthy human being should go in the search for love, but there is a lot of loving you can get before you reach that point.