By: Glyndora Condon MS LPC CTMH CCTP
Couples who pledge their undying love often find themselves drifting from each other as life tosses them to and fro like a tumbleweed since the couple may not have a good foundation. The young love which is forged with each of the individuals placing the other first is soon replaced with self-seeking wants and needs; through many types of manipulations, promises made and broken, and busy lives that invests in work, money, children, or other interests to now fill the void inside. Many small disappointments pile up which tends to create resentfulness, vengefulness, despair, and/or feeling trapped. Even still, once a year as Valentine’s Day draws near then the couple attempts to remember their mate or spouse. Some are more elaborate with their planning than others, but most will do something that will say, I love you. Then, they fall back into the routines of ignoring each other for the remaining year or just go on with life. Year after year, it is like each of them has a script to say and role to play and a few believes that this act of kindness should keep their “loved one” appeased until the next year.
Wonder if you could write a new script for each day which could transition your relationship into a better and more fulfilling relationship? Let’s consider this a moment please. You may think, I do not feel like it. You may even rightfully claim, I don’t even know that I want to try. You may be keeping a score as to every negative word or action that came from your spouse, mate, or companion. Wonder if I told you that it is not important that you “feel like it” or not; and that regardless of your score card-you could actually heal and begin a journey in a new script which will assist your relationship to be richer, fuller, and satisfying? After all, you have attempted to get these things through your money, work, children, activities, and interests yet-as you take inventory-can you honestly say, it is enough and that you no longer have this void or hunger? Did we wait to feel like cleaning the house, cook a meal, get dressed, or some other issue which we have to push through and just do it?
You may say, but-this person has not been able to make me happy either! I needed them to validate me so that I felt worthy and good enough. Or, I needed them to fix me since my parent or parents were so absent or harmful. I thought they could fix my brokenness yet; nothing seems to be enough as a crave more and more. I just gave up begging and I am tired of fighting. Does any of this self-talk sound familiar from you or from your spouse or loved one? Have you sought some type of fulfillment in porn or someone else and find yourself in a stifling addiction that now you have to sneak around, hide, and to attempt to validate or rationalize? None of these beliefs or attempts to “feel better or to “be happy” gave you what your heart needed, did it?
Should you continue the same patterns and walk with today’s culture that is saying -anything goes as long as you are happy-which is the same culture that hypocritically claims that we are to love each other and to embrace differences of each other as that culture is encouraging any population or group to hate and to do harm to another-and this same culture is teaching narcissism as the way to be happy…then please understand that your life will remain much the same roller coaster as you cycle and experience the same results. Isn’t it time to admit that this is not going to work? Hasn’t it been said that it is insane to continue the same patterns and expect a different outcome? Isn’t your life and those in your family worth a healthier direction and focus? Wouldn’t you be willing to apply your efforts into a new mindset and set of behaviors that will propel you into a healthier and more fulfilled you, when you change your focus upon nurturing and lifting your companion, spouse, or mate? If your answer is no, then please stop reading. Because, what is written in the remaining page(s) will not be something you want or are ready to listen to. However; if yes, then let’s proceed. NOTE: If you are in an unsafe environment (Domestic Violence or Substance Abuse) then your safety is paramount as you set clear boundaries while cultivating the plan for a healthier relationship.
If there is a trauma from the past, a major hurtful event, or a long-lasting low sense of self then this personal work will need to be done with those in the profession to assist. This work cannot be done by your spouse. Spouses or loved ones often have their own baggage and their vision is narrow as well. Marrying to feel worth anything, places an immense amount of power and responsibility upon the spouse who cannot fix this. A Christian counselor who will prioritize the individual and also your marriage health-(who is versed in CBT, Solution Focused, Marriage Counseling, and Brainspotting) is needed to provide you with the best tools for healing while working towards a healthier marriage.
One can search for a counselor with these specialties and should be able to locate one or more in your local area, or at least within your State. If not then let us know since we do provide these, Heal and Hope Counseling Services, LLC. Secular counselors may be very skilled in the therapeutic tools and can be most helpful; however-the mindset will often be more leaning towards that of the culture and may not prioritize the need to help you keep your marriage in tact when the issues are intense and when you are hurting, angry, or indifferent. The Christian Counselor would most likely value the institution of marriage and will strive to use the therapeutic tools while also pulling from Christian principals and God's plan for the relationship. Research does support spirituality with the efficacy of therapy and healing.
There are also some excellent movies that have been created as a visual and/or auditory source to begin our journey, therefore my choice is: “Fireproof Your Marriage”. The focus in this movie is exactly what we need. We need a heart of service as we become curious as to what our spouse or companion needs, desires, or inspires to become. Up until now then my h focus has been upon what they need to do for me. I need or want this or that, and they are to change to suit me. They are to do this for me, but then we find ourselves in a battle of will and power; with each of you pulling for your own needs. We begin to bargain and to manipulate the other into submission, which first begins with disrespect or honor of that person; so that my needs are met while I give as little as possible. They become an object for me to use instead of a person with whom I promised to love and to adore for life. Has this worked for you both? You both did get your way at times, but at what cost? Are you feeling used?
Did this grow your respect and love for each other or did it chip away and erode the relationship? I am sure that we can create a long list of their perceived faults…and we make a point to see those faults-swimming in this pool of murky negativism. Now, we can spend our time trying to fix them at the same time that they believe it is their job to fix us, cycling the blame and becoming more resentful. We can compare our mate to other’s and wish ours was more like this person or that person. The problem is we are comparing our inside, negative sense of self, and our negative view of our relationship to other’s outside self and their outside appearance of their relationship. In other words, we see what they want us to see, and most likely, what we are seeing is not what their inside self or their real life relationship.
Have you chased those dreams only to find out that they are not what you thought? The slogan that the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence is a truism that we may need to remind ourselves of. We need to stop chasing others or things; and begin to remember our promise and commitment to the one who agreed to spend their life with you, your spouse. If we fail this relationship, then the statistics are less favorable for the next relationship. Therefore, we need to learn how to really commit, communicate, respect, and to love that person with whom I am with. We both brought into this marriage baggage and what was modeled for us in prior relationships from our childhood forward. All people have their own baggage through which they need to process. Trading one relationship for another is trading baggage also-as we continue bring our own into the mix-which will not resolve our emptiness or our needs.
What do we really know about our own spouse? Have we made many assumptions or attempted to fit them into our mold? Wonder if we work to discover their favorite food, color, song, movie, poem, scripture, love language (acts of service, physical touch, quality time, gifts, or kind words); their favorite memory of your time together, their worse memory of your time together, their fear, their goal for you, your marriage, the children, their strengths and weaknesses from their perspective, and why do they believe what they believe? To know these, without judgment; and to stop attempting to discount their feelings or thoughts, while lowering my defenses would be to see them for the first time! You will often discover that you did not know this most intimate person with whom you share your life with and find yourself intrigued with their uniqueness. Discovering more about this person with absolute curiosity and interest will help you understand the complexity and the simplicity of that person. It will assist you to find new interests and to learn about similar interests.
How do we speak to this person? Do we listen and make sure we are giving them our undivided attention? Do we ask them if we heard them correctly before we respond or jump to a conclusion? What is our tone of voice and volume like? What are our facial and body language like? Do I roll my eyes, sigh, huff and puff, yell, place my hands on my hips, point at, scowl, stomp, move in dangerously close during a conflict, walk off during a discussion, slam doors, punch walls, or other behaviors that are disrespectful or alarming? How do I speak and act when with a complete stranger? Question: Do I treat a stranger with more patience and grace than I do my mate?
Let’s say that they said or did something that I find myself feeling something negative about, then do I take my time to make sure that what I am thinking is correct before I do something or do I simply react? Am I able to safely share this with my mate? If I react to what they are sharing with me, then was my reaction received well? How many times has the mate stated that I over-reacted or that I misunderstood? What were the consequences? Wouldn’t it be smarter to first check with myself regarding how I am thinking and feeling?
Ask these questions: What am I feeling with this situation occurred? Why do I feel this way when that situation occurred? What evidence do I have that makes my thought true? False? What other factors may better explain the situation and why I think this instead of the thought? Only after checking if you heard them correctly and with this process will you be capable to speaking to the subject effectively. In any case, in marriage, then we both should have a place of grace where we can go safely with our mate and to be vulnerable without fear.
We may have a ton of issues confronting us. Many of these issues will be less formidable with effective communication and with a drastic change of focus to prioritize and to serve our spouse. The relationship with our spouse and our children in this order is paramount and will be able to then help us to prioritize, to apply boundaries, to resolve, and/or to move beyond-with all of these other less significant stressors bombarding us. You would be surprised that with a relationship, then so many other temptations and issues are much easier to handle when we can resolve one issue together amicably.
Okay then, how do we turn this marriage into that kind of relationship?
We need to invest and prioritize our spouse. What our time, money, diligence, work, and interest is invested in-is what we are prioritizing. So how is this measuring up with how important and precious your spouse is to you? Do they feel prioritized even if you say that they are?
Now, I would need to write a small book to share with you every aspect of relationship issues that are taking from your relationship, including all of the possible consequences, and how these work. I then would need to write another one to help you to comprehend and to be motivated to change the negative patterns, along with how to increase empathy, communication, and social skills; but we only have this article to spark enough interest for you to inventory your heart and behaviors, along with the intent and motivation behind what you are doing.
So, the first thing is to stop focusing on what they are doing wrong (in your perspective) and instead let’s take an abrupt shift from what you think will fix him or her, and instead CHOOSE to love them fully with respect-regardless of how we feel or what they are doing or feeling. This is a contrary and challenging approach which has a good track record, so why not?
Today, choose to find one positive thing about him or her, and share this with them with your gratitude-and say nothing negative to them, about them, or about anything that they are in charge of (in your perspective). In fact, bring this one into your daily routine. There will be times that an issue will need to be brought up and efforts with you both contributing some options with the hope to resolve the issue so that the issues do not continue or fester will need to occur; but this cannot be a daily event. You will need to agree to a specific day and time to bring one issue to the table so as to work through and to settle it amicably and respectfully; a couple of times each week if needed, and then for the remainder of those days; then return to focusing upon the positive regarding your mate. Don’t be leery of resolving issues and do not be on the defensive. This is a time to broaden our perspectives as we invite our mate’s perspective and work together-and this will provide an opportunity to grow deeper with your mate as you learn more about their thoughts and feelings.
The following day, we choose to be kind in word and in actions. In fact, love is kind and therefore we need to add this to our daily routine. We like others being kind to us-yet sometimes forget that this is a two way street and that you need to show kindness, being helpful, lifting a burden, caring enough to listen, asking if the person needs your input or if they just need someone to speak to as they ponder something that brings them concern. Often the other person is not telling you things for you to fix them. Be encouraging and uplifting. Do something unexpected that will ease the other’s day. Possibly a back rub or foot rub would be nice.
Be humble and meek instead of haughty or controlling. To be able to subdue oneself and to raise another up or to allow another their choices and God-given rights takes courage. To respect that person enough to know that they are capable of making good choices and be willing to be aware and to embrace that they can have a difference of opinion without this being something that frightens me. Knowing that I am strong yet to allow myself to be gentle takes tremendous self-control and strength. I need to ask if this or that idea is okay with my spouse before I involve them, or make plans that may not involve them since we are a team. I also need to accept their decision without passive aggressive comments or behaviors. That person is not my possession.
That person is my companion, lover, friend, confidant, and also a human being. I have no right to force them or to cajole them into obedience to me or to make them change for me. If they are considering something dangerous or of high risk to our relationship, then I can speak as to my concern with grace and I can suggest accountability and a boundary if necessary; but ultimately the choice is theirs. Should they choose against our marriage then I do have the right to leave or to suggest counseling; and if they state that they wish to return with promises of change then allowing time apart for a long enough period of time to ensure their change of heart would help us both to know truth and the level of commitment that is possible. Wisdom and the ability to discern is something we need to pray for ourselves and for our spouses as we love them. If their decisions are concerning to us then we may need to speak with a minister or a Christian Counselor who will help us to discern more objectively by bearing in mind many factors that we may not have considered.
Each day following, a couple needs to add patience, long suffering, honesty, purity of heart, faithfulness, and peacemaking within their hearts. With these signs of love, then the behaviors will follow; but at times the behaviors may need to come first in order to begin to feel for our spouse, what we need to feel for them.
There would also be a need to increase the desire to please one’s mate sexually. Men are more like a microwave with desire more into the limbic system of the brain. Men have about 2.5 more of their brain dedicated to sexuality than women. Women however are more like slow cookers, needing to simmer; and who desire relational and emotional stimulation. When a man will care for her heart, then that man will find her more receptive. She will watch him as he steps in with his willingness to help her, to listen to her and to invite her to share more about her needs. Woman is normally drawn towards him as he father’s the children with love and guidance. She practically melts as he seeks to please her. These tender moments help her to lubricate and to feel secure and safe; and should she advance with her body and kisses, then she will need to be received with patience. Caution! Man needs to love her without expecting sex and sometimes just cuddle. When good deeds are seen as a means for sex, then this will turn her off.
Men normally are ready to make love anytime and can often reach satisfaction quickly; whereas women need to feel appreciated, desired, throughout the day. They need affectionate words and gentle touch, along with tantalizing foreplay without the rush. To pleasure each other while seeking the other’s pleasure above one’s own…. brings heightened enjoyment. A common mistake is that men believe that the same things that turn them on-also will turn on their spouses; and women often believe the same but both genders are very different; and within those genders, will be a variety of tastes and preferences. Therefore, both need to ask each other what works for them. Women’s skin are often much more sensitive to touch. They may say that a man’s touch is too firm and man may need the woman to strengthen her touch upon him. Sexuality is God’s beautiful gift to the married couple. Culture has cheapened and marketed this gift that God made with porn, lust, extramarital affairs, and hooking up while objectifying a human being. Love is not arrogant and it has no room for competition. It has no room for games or selfishness. It is not a feeling but it is Action. One shows love in deed and in words.
Changing one’s attention to seeking the positives in our mates and changing our behaviors to those actions that reflect respect and love-in order to create a relationship, is far richer and more effective than to hear about all of the “don’t do” list. How long have you been nagging, begging, manipulating, threatening, and ignoring? Did that work for you? Someone has to take the first step. If you are reading this article then that someone may need to be you. Therefore, study Matthew 5:5, 1st Corinthians 13:4-7, and the Fruit of the Spirit, and then pattern each day while learning and showing the action of love fully to your spouse. Be consistent even if this is not reciprocated, and pray for God to work in their heart as well as within yours. Christian counselors are here to help you and your precious spouse to be more than you ever thought possible, should you decide to take the steps necessary to invest in your marriage. Invest yourself into the most powerful and fulfilling relationship created by God, your marriage and discover how much God loves you. Happy Valentine’s Life to you both!