Nothing tears at your self esteem and sense of well being more than a marital crisis.
The question is often posed to me by someone in the midst of a painful relationship upheaval: “What did I do wrong?”
You assume you failed. You ask yourself in the middle of the night, “What could I have done differently? If only I would have paid more attention, been less angry, been more positive, listened better, spent more time with” and the list of “If only I would haves” goes on and on.
You may feel terribly responsible and a part of you won’t let go of the idea that somehow, perhaps in glaring ways, you are to blame.
You kick yourself. You berate yourself. You want to turn the clock back. But, you can’t.
There’s another level to the erosion of self esteem and self respect as well; another pernicious level that rips a hole in your soul.
I hear a suffering spouse utter or imply, “What’s wrong with me, that this could happen?”
You may believe that the marital or relationship crisis points to the reality that you are in some way defective and inadequate.
That sense of being defective or inadequate is finally brought, at least from your point of view, into the open. You as a person are outed.
Your nagging sense of inadequacy, you so valiantly tried to mask or overcome is now exposed.
It is exceedingly difficult to manage well and recover effectively from your marital crisis with low self esteem or shattered sense of self.
I want to help you regain your self respect so you can get on with the job of healing and restoration.
Regaining your self respect often occurs when you understand that you are neither totally responsible nor defective and inadequate but marriage or a relationship of significant emotional investment provides a rich environment for self esteem to get flushed down the toilet.
1. Marriage exposes you.
There is a vulnerability in all of us; at least all “normal” functioning people.
In most relationships you control others’ access to that part of you. You can hide. You can pretend. You can avoid.
You may attempt to use that same strategy with your spouse, but events, words and strong feelings emerge that cut through your façade and touch on that which you try to hide.
Your humanity, idiosyncrasies and foibles are exposed. They may or may not be accepted by your spouse. They may be acceptable to a degree at particular times.
2. You are taught an unrealistic ideal
We also are bombarded from the media and other forms of communication, even well intentioned self help people, with an image of marriage or being married that flies in the face of reality.
I watch parts of the “Bachelorette” on television and cringe. Is this what it means to “fall in love” or “be in love?” Are most of us really that naïve, or do we get off on the silliness and superficiality of the show?
Or, is there a part of you that longs to be swept off your feet to some exotic place and live with that “love” for the rest of your married lives?
And so we believe that these beautiful people “have it.” And, we don’t.
We feel our emptiness, our frustration, our resentment, our loneliness and we think, “What’s wrong with me/us?”
3. We create roles
We also attempt to cope in married life by adapting and living different roles, thinking, “This is how I’m supposed to act in a marriage.”
The husband plays the role of the provider. The woman is the nurturer.
The man plays the take charge role. The woman plays the submissive and helpless role.
One initiates sex. The other receives sex.
One is the strong silent type. The other is the gregarious seductive vixen.
One becomes the parent. The other becomes the child.
Roles may work for a period of time or may last the length of the marriage. However distance is perpetuated and you never truly encounter one another, only the roles.
The strain of the roles is shattered by a marital crisis.
4. Unfinished business
We take into our marriages the unfinished business of maturation. The patterns and thoughts about self, others, marriage, sex, intimacy, abandonment, etc. we carry along and place at the feet of our spouse, usually unconsciously.
The marital crisis is often an outbreak of unresolved and unfinished business from the past and has very little to do with you, the hurting spouse.
Understanding the powerful dynamics of a marital relationship or relationship of deep emotional commitment may help gain your self respect, knowing that many forces are outside your control, responsibility or sense of adequacy.
Another factor or way of thinking powerfully influences belief in your self.
I’m often asked, “How do you keep your sanity after you hear all the stories of heartbreak and pain from those enduring a marital or relational crisis? Don’t YOU get depressed?”
I’ve thought long and hard on this question. I’ve literally logged tens of thousands of hours of listening to pain and heartbreak of couples and individuals since 1983.
I know clearly and deep within me the answer.
I am able to hear stories of pain and anguish of different varieties, over and over again, because I have absolute and unswerving faith in a person’s capacity to dig deep within and bring to light and power the solutions to their problems, the healing to their relationships and themselves.
I convey the utmost confidence in your innate and given capacity to heal and guide yourself.
I’ve experienced this with thousands – moving beyond the despair, neediness and desperation – discovering their voice and power and creating a new life and new relationship. It truly is amazing.
I love. I care. I guide and I get out of the way!