Many couples come to The Marriage Recovery Center full of bitterness, anger, and resentment. They find themselves trapped in this continuous cycle of fighting, trying to prove their point, or what we call “building their case.” This case-building continues until one person blows up and the other withdrawls, stuffing their hurt. Neither partner can understand how they have become this bitter, mean, and miserable person.
I find that most people live in the “courtroom.” When they address issues with their mate, family, friends or co-worker they throw accusations such as “you were trying to hurt me” or “you don’t love me.” Stating feelings and thoughts as an accusation puts the other person in instant defense mode and can tend to shut them down.
In the courtroom we also tend to blame other people “if you weren’t so mean, I wouldn’t have to yell at you.” When this occurs the person blaming is not taking responsibility for their own behavior or feelings and thus avoids being able to process their feelings.
Finally, I find that these men and women are driven by truth. They are so focused on being right that they dismiss the other person’s reality because it is so vastly different than theirs. I have come to adopt a saying which I will often share with these folks. That is “You can be right, or you can be in relationship!” Being stuck in a position is not the way to build connection.
So the question I propose to you is…are you ready to put down your sword, protective armor and begin connecting with your spouse??
If you are willing to quit fighting then there is hope. You may be stuck in this bitterness, anger, and resentment, but there is a way to get out of this pit. Here is how:
- Slow down and determine your feelings rather than coming from the courtroom in defensiveness and anger, give yourself some time to process what is beneath your anger. Are you feeling fearful? Hurt? Rejected?
- Only Speak from your feelings Once you know what your real feelings are, speak to your mate, friends or coworker from these feelings. “When you told me_____yesterday, I felt really hurt by your comment.
- ”Need — Now that you have spoken from your feelings, it is critical that you then tell them what you need to feel. If you are feeling rejected, than you may need to feel accepted.
- Want — When discussing an issue it is important to let the other person know what they can do to meet your needs. An example of this would be “I ask that you only bring issues and feelings to me in a respectful way.” You need to ask for what you want. It is up to the other person whether they can accommodate your needs and wants.
- Live from your convictions — Understanding what you feel, need, and want begins from knowing your convictions. Many people struggle to discern their morals and values. For instance, is being truthful important to you? Do you need to be treated with respect? Are you driven to do the “right” thing? If so, standing firm in these convictions without allowing others to influence you in these areas is key to living in your core self.
- Live with good boundaries — Protect your convictions with good boundaries. As you may have learned by now…you cannot put boundaries on other people. However, you can determine what you will do in response to someone’s behavior. An example, “If you choose to speak to me disrespectfully, I will choose to disengage from this conversation.” Boundaries create value in you and empower you to be congruent with your feelings and beliefs.
Learning to live without the sword and armor will take some time. It will take being vulnerable with your mate as well as consistent introspection, congruency, and speaking from your deeper feelings. If you can accomplish this, you will have the blessing of living connected with your spouse, which brings incredible joy and contentment.