The Power Struggle of Marriage
If you are married or have been married, then you know that marriage can be extremely tough. It is a juggling act of balancing your needs within the needs of your relationship. It’s that constant tug and pull of blending what you want individually with balancing the needs of your partner. As if that wasn’t tough enough, add into the marital equation your perception of the ideal marriage (most people—women—have unrealistic fantasies of what marriage should be!).
People hope that they would get at least some of their unmet needs from childhood met once they found their partner. Children who grew up in abusive homes hoped for safety and security in their marriage. Children who didn’t get validated or shown enough approval hoped to find a spouse that could do this for them. Did you grow up with a critical, angry alcoholic parent and now have found that you have married a person with some of these same characteristics? That is not unusual.
Your marital partner is not responsible for healing past wounds. If you want to work on rectifying your situation, here’s how it works:
Spend a few minutes sitting in a comfortable chair thinking back on your parent-child relationship. When did you enjoy it the most? Now, think back and identify what you didn’t get enough of. Was it attention? Validation? Approval? Affection? Write a short sentence or paragraph describing that unmet need. Include why that need is so important to you now. What will most likely come up for you is called a core issue. Unresolved core issues drive you to enter relationship whereby you can, as an adult, resolve the issue, heal the wound, and right the wrong. Our psyches are like compasses and they steer us in a direction for the partner that represents or symbolizes what we didn’t get in childhood.
How do you create an experience where you get what you need in a marriage or a union with another person? The answer lies within healing the childhood wounds. Most people get stuck in the relationship not knowing where to turn or how to get their needs met. They either fight with their spouse to be noticed, approved, validated, or loved, or they acquiesce and resign themselves to the fatal position that they are destined to feel unloved, invalidated, or disapproved. It is crucial to move beyond this stage, because if you don’t you will either separate emotionally from your marriage, or you will physically move out of it, resulting in a divorce.
How do you avoid staying stuck? Learn the skills of self-parenting. This is a process in which you learn how to give yourself what you didn’t get as a child. You have to meet your own needs. It is a restructuring where you learn that ultimately you have to believe and empower yourself. It requires that you change your behaviors that discredit you as a person. Do you give too much because you’re looking for approval? It’s time to say no, and give to yourself. Perhaps you do just the opposite…you operate from your needs first. It’s time to then start putting those needs on the back burner and look to how you can be there for someone else.
After you have spent time working on yourself, hopefully with a therapist who can be your new compass, it will be time to do the needed marital work.