Common marriage problems - who is the real enemy?
Marriage problems and the battles within our minds
It is common to have challenges and problems within a marriage. When you have a fight or disagreement with your partner, it is likely to upset you. The pain can be very intense. When this pain is not expressed constructively, it leaves you and your partner feeling injured and powerless. Partners will then often fall into a cycle of attack/defend or blame/avoid. When this pattern lasts for too long and without any resolution, you can start to lose hope in each other and your relationship. Despair leads to resentment, then contempt, and these feelings signal that the relationship needs intensive care right away.
As with most health issues, the best treatment is prevention. Prevention begins with good understanding of the psychological processes that underlie conflicts. I refer here to subconscious and deeply ingrained beliefs. I often call them ‘psychological bugs’ because they operate on our psyches like viruses on our bodies. They attack when we are not ready and they weaken our immune system. It is time to become aware of the real enemy of your marriage.
Let’s bring them to light! Awareness has an enormous healing power. With self-awareness you can loosen the grip of these ‘psychological bugs’.
“This is the end!”
This bug loves to attack you in times of big conflict or relationship crisis, just when you need the support and security more than anything else. This can be very scary and confronting. Unfortunately, it may cause you to behave out of panic, which can push your partner further away. Sadly, this may ultimately lead to your worse scenario – loss of connection with your partner. Know this bug well if you don’t want it to fail you.
“I am being victimised again”
This bug is actually aimed at protecting you, but the problem is that it tilts you towards mistrust and victimhood. It makes you interpret the benign actions of your partner as attempts to treat you unkindly. It may also make you overreact with rage to little things that wouldn’t normally bother you. You might be particularly sensitive to this bug if you carry memories of powerlessness, betrayal, exploitation, bullying or abuse. This bug will make it hard for you to build trust in a new relationship. Your partner might feel blamed unfairly and withdraw.
“I can’t be wrong”
This bug stems from the fear of making mistakes. If you make a mistake you are going to pay a heavy price – lose love. This bug is a symptom of underlying shame, of the belief “I am not good enough”. People with this bug are often confronted if you prove them wrong. Telling them they are wrong is perceived as proof that they are unworthy of love. This is the enemy of learning and growing. If this bug runs your life, you get defensive when someone provides you with any feedback. People around you might feel frustrated because you are not open to listening to them.
“I am not loved”
This bug is very subtle and difficult to identify. It makes you interpret the avoiding behaviours of your partner as lack of care towards you. My observation is that in most cases, partners fail to show their care because of their own personal issues: lacking awareness of the need of the partner, not sure how to show it, preoccupation with their own issues, and more.
“I am being controlled”
This bug operates the defence mechanism of avoidance in relationships. During conflicts you tend to withdraw and go quiet. When your partner tries to talk you may interpret it as a risk to your individuality and freedom. You don’t enter an open discussion or negotiation, but instead you battle for power.
“Love is harmony and unity”
This bug represents the fairy-tale concept we all carry in our subconscious mind about Love. Love is all positive. Unpleasant feelings are bad for love. Conflicts disrupt the unity and the harmony we are supposed to feel. This bug will set you up to feel deeply disappointed in the face of conflict. Conflict destroys the dream.
Can you notice what is common in all these enemies of your marriage?
They stem from a unique filter in your mind. The source is your fragile ‘little’ self – a part of your personality which was conditioned in past experiences. For most of us, the origin is in the early stage of our development when we were dependent on another human being to take care of us and make us feel secure. To understand and accept this part in you is probably the most important skill for being a successful partner. This self-empathy liberates and empowers you. Just imagine what happens when you begin to see the drama of your relationship through a new filter. You learn to reflect more and react less.
About the author:
Guy is a psychologist with more than 30 years of experience helping people with relationship issues.