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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: March 2013

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Is Your Mind Undermining Your Marriage?

What comes up a lot here in the office when we are talking about marriage and relationships, in addition to the pain, the joy, the hope, and all the real communication (both verbal and physical) stuff is this:  What we tell ourselves often has an impact on how we negotiate building a life with someone. 
Where does your mind go? Take my brief quiz:

Husband comes home late, does not call to say he will be late.
Wife Thinks:
A) He is an inconsiderate creep who puts everyone else before me.
B) He does not really love me (I am not that important to him).
     B.Part 2:  I am therefor not lovable and am worthless
C) He probably has no idea how much I'd like a call, I'll have to let him know again how happy it makes me when he remembers.

Wife calls husband a lot during the day and then complains that he does not care about her:
Husband Thinks:
A) She is too needy, and does not support my work.
B) I am constantly disappointing her.  Why do I bother?
     B Part 2:  There is no way to please her.  I am failing at this.  Maybe I really am incompetent.
C) She must need more of a connect with me, which is fine, and I'll have to help her to know I'm thinking about her and am with her, but that talking a lot during the day makes it hard to concentrate on my work, which is part of how I see myself taking care of her and the relationship.

Husband wants to spend some time with the guys.
Wife Thinks:
A) He is clueless, inconsiderate and does not know how to love.
B) I get it, but deep down I know that others are more important to him than I am.  He is not putting any effort into us, he'd rather be doing other things.
     B Part 2:  I am not good enough.  Because I feel so lonely I'm pathetic.
C)  Good, all couples need some friend time.  It's good for the relationship.  Hope he has a blast.  Wonder if I can encourage him to tell me about it.

Wife does not like to cook meals too often.
Husband thinks:
A) She is lazy, not interested in my needs or feelings
B) I can't get her to step up.  She only yells and complains all the time anyway.
     B Part 2:  I don't deserve happiness.  It is what it is.  I guess I just have to suck it up.
C)  She does a lot of great stuff for me and puts in a lot of good effort.   I wonder what can I do to bring us closer and encourage her to cook more.

So okay, it's not always this simple.  And if we are struggling with old resentments, philosophical differences, it feels like a big mountain to climb. But still, the little things are not so little and they add up and create a culture within the relationship. 
So how our minds work really matters.   Our feelings matter.  They need to be unpacked and understood.  If we want to have close, happy relationships we need to work on how and why we see and experience things the way we do.  Looking at our minds does not mean that we are wrong or that the other person does not need to step up or join in the work.  But sometimes we do have to be curious about how and why we have come to think about things and the effect that has on our words our actions and on our lives, our relationships and on what we really want.

And just as PS, check out this article on feeling appreciated and women and divorce.  (Folks often bristle when I bring up the idea that expressing gratitude on a regular and repeated basis is crucial to a relationship - even for the basics and day to day stuff.  It creates a better culture, among other things.  Yes, its hard to do when you are hurting and angry and frustrated, but it is one part of making things better.)