Save Your Marriage Part 2Get this article in PDF format
Learn How to Prevent Divorce and Save Your Marriage
Relationship, couples and marriage help comes in the form of insight into how successful partnerships work. Once you know the map, you can traverse the territory. The key is to learn what must be done to make a relationship work, and very few people have any idea what that is. Once you know the territory, you may be motivated to empower yourself, and your partner by adopting proven personal development strategies.
There are several key insights that couples must have before they can be assured of a good mentally and emotionally healthy relationship. In brief, here are the essentials.
1. Understand your own personality style and your partner's. Neither are going to change in a hurry, so it is essential that you see, understand and accept both. In particular, notice what soothes and helps the other, and what enables them to express thoughts and feelings that precede anger, resentment, hostility, etc.
2. Behind personality differences are needs and values differences. Ignorance of one’s own needs and that of your partner’s are the key reason people get emotional, and conflict abounds. These differences, especially those that matter most, are going to be most usefully exposed to you by a skilled therapist.
3. When needs are not met, or values not respected and accepted, strong feelings arise. What feelings come up for you? Get to know your own emotional reactive pattern – don’t assume that everyone is the same – yours is uniquely yours. These feelings basically say “The way I (or you) are responding to life situations doesn’t work for me. I want a different response from me (or you) when certain situations arise.
4. Learn to listen. Easier said than done when you’re upset, but get into the routine of listening in a way that works for the other (ask them for guidance on how best to do this). Some like their feelings heard, validated and reflected, others prefer to have their viewpoint reflected and appreciated. Never abuse being listened to by being judgemental or critical – or the listening won’t last long.
5. Emotions therefore tell you when things aren’t working for you, and also tell you when they are going well. The blueprint for your emotional reactive style, though, was established in childhood. Get to know your emotional pattern and that of your partner. Read the article “Conflict Styles” on http://www.couplescounselling4u.co.nz/conflict-styles.php to see what style you bring to your relationship. Once you each know your style, then you can discuss ways of managing it when it arises during conflict.
6. Your emotional reaction in relationship is almost totally about you rather than the other person. No-one can make you feel anything, much less feelings you don’t like. It is unlikely you will come to a full and necessary understanding of this without the therapeutic involvement of someone skilled to help you see this, and all of the steps above.
7. A good start to your work together is to ask yourself these essential questions.
a. “What does the fact that I was attracted to my partner say about me, and what does the fact that I’m now bothered by my partner say about me?”
b. “What am I like to live with? How many others would also find me difficult to live with, and for what reasons?”
c. What is my reactive pattern that occurs over and over, and how easy am I to get on with when it kicks in?
d. What do I do in my relationship that adds quality to it?
Marital relationship needs, love and our motivation to improve
Successful couples know who they are, want to empower and
love each other, and to communicate this in
non-threatening ways. So quality marital counselling
focuses on couples being loving and supportive, empowering
each other to be the most they can be. Becoming loving and
accepting of self, and staying motivated to talk things
through with your partner is essential. Marital dynamics
are totally hidden to most people, who understandably
don’t know where to start or how to start healing their
relationship. Here’s what you need to know.
1. When people see others as being different they often conclude "some thing's wrong with you", or "some thing's wrong with me", or "why don't you get your act together and change", and so on. As we will see, this is flawed thinking.
2. We are attracted and drawn to those who are different to us. Difference provides variety, interest and allows us to find out ‘who we are’ when we are with those who are ‘not the way we are.’
3. We also tend to love those qualities in others that are either like us, or resonate with a part of us that would like to have qualities like the loved person. It is this admiration or triggering of an unmet need that leads us to love another, and feel motivated to make a success of the relationship.
4. Relationships therefore provide opportunity to discover what we like and dislike by being in the presence of someone who is different. Empowerment results when each can be who they are whilst in the presence of the other.
5. We can very easily interpret these differences as being unacceptable, bothersome, frustrating, or downright wrong. When this happens, we have lost sight of the fact that features in our partner that may once have attracted us, have now become unattractive to us. Behind all behaviours we see in our partner now, are patterns that were present, even if mostly dormant, when we first got together. How is it that we missed seeing this? Were we blind?
6. Couples relationship requires, therefore, that we learn to work with, and understand, difference. Otherwise, we are destined to repeat this dynamic, over and over again. Eventually we will lose motivation to carry on, and even our sense of self-worth may become undermined. Little wonder relationships can become depressing.
7. Relationships also trigger unmet needs from childhood. They thus provide an opportunity to find out who we are, and how we’ve been damaged, by the way in which we react. We react emotionally when we overlook, (often mirrored by our partner overlooking) needs we have which we’ve been ignoring usually since childhood – although we are often not aware of all this.
Self awareness and empowerment to improve our relationship
8. The combination of the above puts us constantly in a position of having to reflect on self, and what our emotions and preferences are telling us about what we do or don’t want. To remain mentally healthy, we must continue to be free to be empowered and to enhance self esteem.
9. Most people make the mistake of thinking that our emotions and preferences are telling us about the other person. This is a common projection and illusion that occurs, especially in close or intimate relationships. Feelings always tell us about what we must do for ourselves. Our self esteem, self worth and confidence relies on acting on our own behalf, regardless of what’s going on ‘out there.’
10. Thus, relationship invites participants to consciously notice what is happening, rather than to unconsciously react. With self awareness we can choose to be and do what leads to our growth, or we can live blind to our inner world that is being activated by the relationship dynamics.
11. Relationships then, provide an opportunity for us to notice which part of us is going to ‘turn up’ in any given situation, and why. Instead, we often seek relationship so that we can have, hold, and use those parts of the other person that we admire.
12. The purpose of a relationship is not so that we can feel complete, but rather to provide an opportunity in which we can consciously become complete within ourselves. For this we must be loving of self enough to accept whichever part turns up.
Relationships are where we can self-actualize – become our true self
13. The irony here, then, is that without another person, we are quite literally nothing, because we only know self by virtue of the way we relate to others. Yet, the other person can do nothing to make us be anything or anyone – that is totally up to us.
14. So long as we are relying on our partner to ‘be someone’ or ‘be the person we want them to be’, then disappointment is inevitable. Empowerment is impossible. Each of us must live up to our highest expectations of self, and stay true to self, if the relationship is going to serve us, and accept the other as they are. Changing others is a tall order, and doomed to failure and not a healthy way to live. We can only act on behalf of self, which includes expressing support we would like.
15. Relying on another person to be who we want them to be is thus fraught with problems, because we can’t control another, or have them change to fit our needs, values, attitudes or wants. Yet, most individuals think that their relationship will get better when their partner changes in the way they, the partner, prescribe.
You must love and accept yourself first
16. Thus, it is through focusing on the other that relationships fail. Healthy couples support each other to autonomously support, expand, change and become self-actualized. Love is expressed in the relationship through support of the other.
17. Couples often operate from the unconscious perspective that if they love another, then the other will love them. Then they will have the love they seek, and can then love themselves. The law of attraction demonstrates that we must love and accept self first, then you will be a more attractive mate, you will have a loving vibration, and one that is more lovable to the partner.
18. It doesn’t matter what your partner is doing, being, hoping, having, saying, needing, wanting or demanding. Your job is not to fulfil all of those. Your job is to notice who the other is, and how they are, but not to fix or alter them. Your job is to love and support self no matter what is discovered about self or the other. A person who loves and accepts self is more confident and motivates others to be loving towards them.
19. By loving self, putting self first, we can live and act out of integrity. Then, if it serves our highest good to do so (and it often will), we can make ourselves available to support our partner. Because of what we want for ourselves, it can serve us well to support the needs of others – to a point. That point is reached when we must ignore or compromise our own needs, values, etc to support the other.
20. Our feelings will always alert us to who we are or are not. By listening to these, and the needs, values, attitudes, insights and knowing they inform us of, we can then decide who to be, in the next moment, in our relationship.
21. Because they are wanting to please or be loved by the other, many lose themselves in relationship. They lose track of who they are, and what they need. They then blame this on the other, and hurt, resentment and anger result.
22. This can result in a person feeling less than when they were single, because they’ve given up so much of self in order to keep, save and serve the relationship. How depressing!
23. The irony is that we must be selfish in order to make a relationship work. Selfish is not the same as narcissistic. Being centered on self requires awareness of and commitment to self first so that the relationship can be served honestly and with integrity.
24. The way forward, then, is to notice your feelings, and the needs or values that these are alerting you to. Then you can approach your partner and express these. Eg “I was hurt and angry when you walked out on me with a word. My request is that you tell me what is going on for you, so that I can hear what your needs are and do my best to support you to meet those.”
The ten ingredients of a successful primary relationship
What makes for a good couples relationship? Is love enough? Is good sex enough? In fact, is anything enough? What are the factors likely to ensure that your relationship will last? You may be surprised that the list is not brief. No wonder many struggle to make their relationship last. However, once you know the territory, you can plan a journey through it.
1. Chemistry A quickening of energy with the person loved. This is often called ‘chemistry.’ Chemistry may play out as passion. There are some who consider that this special energetic connection is a carry-over from a past-life relationship of some sort. The presence of chemistry certainly helps a relationship, but is insufficient to ensure relationship success. It helps to generate intense feelings, positive or negative.
2. Existence of true love The ability to love the other person, for whom they are – unconditionally. This is considered to be a ‘legitimate need’ of all human beings, and fundamental to a successful relationship. Genuine love will only follow 'falling in love' if the uniqueness – warts and all – of one's partner can be appreciated, respected, honoured, and accepted. Few can manage this. Love, like chemistry, is a requirement for a relationship, but not enough.
3. Understanding A loving couple understand and accept each other. This comes from appreciating that people are different, why they are, and being able to manage that fact. It is necessary to comprehend the dynamics of relationship, and points 4 to 8 below especially, for such understanding to be present.
4. A good match of needs. Needs mismatches create tension, disagreements, and ultimately the conflicts that sabotages the relationship. Successful relationships have a high needs match, and low needs mismatch. Matching needs may play out as passion, purpose and alignment, while mismatches as conflict. Neediness, caused by childhood wounding, results in the most serious of mismatches, and thus conflict. If couples are able to recognize, respect and support each others’ needs, this will hugely enhance the survival of the relationship. Successful couples choose to act in loving ways, even during times of conflict. Love is expressed as acceptance, respect, listening, supporting, and being available when the chips are down.
5. A good match of values. Easiest when the backgrounds of each person are similar, values are beliefs about the ‘right’ way to live life, and act as a guide to what is important and what is not. Coming from a similar cultural, ethnic, or religious background will increase the likelihood of aligned values. Successful relationships have a high values match, and a low values mismatch. Again when acceptance, respect and valuing of the partner is present, different values are accepted as part of the others’ uniqueness and are acceptable (even if uncomfortable).
6. Personality or Gender differences. These show up as needs mismatches, but their origin lies in ‘wiring’ differences caused by character preferences or styles and gender typing. These differences are hugely variable, such as styles of emotional expression, ways of conversing, managing stress, taking time out, expressing love – and all amount to needs of one sort or another. There are styles of relating more typical of males or females, and these differences must be understood and accepted by each partner.
7. Motivation and Commitment to Personal Growth. The need to own and address personal reactions to the other’s behaviour. These reactions are based on unmet needs, many of which are ‘deficiency needs’ with their roots in childhood dramas. Whenever we react, our emotional guidance is alerting us to insights, understanding, needs or values which are demanding to be heard and acknowledged – if we are listening. Successful couples are committed to working on, discussing, and problem-solving issues that arise in their relationship.
8. The Self-awareness and Motivation to Change Behaviours that Don’t Work. Those personality tendencies that make it very difficult for anyone to be in relationship with you must be addressed. Virtually any relationship requires, in order to succeed, that you are mentally and emotionally balanced, honest, faithful, trustworthy, compassionate, loving, emotionally available, intimate and vulnerable. Control Drama Triangle behaviours will quickly undermine any relationship, and these are inevitable if your neediness tendencies are not healed. An unwillingness to address one's reactivity is tantamount to an unwillingness to be responsible for the state of your relationships.
9. Commitment to Each Other and the Relationship. Because relationships have their ups and downs, it is essential that partners feel secure in the knowledge that the relationship will hold together while issues are addressed. This only works successfully, though, in concert with point 8 above. Commitment makes no sense when old conflicts continually re-emerge and are never addressed, and even less sense if abuse is occurring.
10. Skills of Partnership Empowerment. Listening skills, sharing skills, being intimate, taking about commitment to each other, being respectful, being appreciative, valuing, being kind, giving love, spending time together, supporting each other’s needs, and knowing how to manage and heal conflict are some of the many skills needed to make a relationship succeed. These skills, in conjunction with 7 above, are missing in most relationships. It takes commitment to constantly better your communication style, and especially to work out ways of working through conflict for the betterment of the partnership.