Tell me if this feels familiar:
- You cannot remember the last time you’ve had a deep conversation with your spouse about your relationship.
- If you can remember, the memory is not a positive one.
- When you think about talking to your spouse about _____________, you cringe inside. (Fill in the blank with sex, money, parenting – you name it),
If this is familiar, I feel for you. Because at one point, it was me. It brought me to within a hair’s breadth of pursuing divorce and wreaking havoc on my immediate and extended family.
While there is rarely a single issue that drives a husband and wife apart, the desire to avoid pain or conflict is present in most of the couples we counsel. It’s a core issue because when we can’t discuss what’s hurting us, it gradually oozes out in other ways. Eventually there is no more sharing, no more intimacy, no more of anything remotely resembling what brought us together in the first place.
‘I can’t talk to my spouse about that’
I often hear people say their spouse won’t or can’t hear them. Often it’s about sex. The percentage of people who are unhappy with their sex life is huge! But for whatever reason, they feel they can’t tell their spouse. The same goes with talking about a spouse’s appearance, especially if obesity is in the mix.
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In reality – in the vast majority of situations – the spouse who says “I can’t talk to him/her about that” is simply protecting themselves. Specifically, they’re protecting themselves from the anxiety the conversation would cause. They are worried about the spouse’s reaction. The consequences. The aftershock. And so instead, they avoid the topic altogether.
‘I don’t want to hurt their feelings’
I get this. My husband is one of the dearest, sweetest men on planet Earth. Years back, when I was an emotional basket case, even though I was miserable, I didn’t want to tell him. The last thing I wanted to do was make him feel bad about himself. Things about him drove me crazy and yet I wouldn’t tell him. I thought if I verbalized what I was really thinking, what was really bothering me, how deeply unhappy I was, he would take all the blame on himself and things would just get worse.
The truth is though, I didn’t tell him because I didn’t want to face the anxiety it would cause in me if I had the conversation. I was protecting me. Guess what else I did?
I aborted any chance of a deeper relationship with my husband byassuming he couldn’t handle it.
How fair is that? How loving is it? Rather than giving him the chance to know me better and help me through my issues, I stuffed it and justified doing so by assuming he couldn’t handle it.
If you’re doing this, you are destroying your marriage. And it’s a death by a million little paper cuts.
If your relationship doesn’t end in outright divorce, it will at a minimum slip into the doldrums, as you find less and less to discuss and fewer activities you enjoy together. Loving affection will become a distant memory and tender moments of closeness will be nonexistent. You’ll become the couple in the corner of the restaurant who’ve been married for 40 years but don’t have a thing to say to one another.
Choose your destiny
If you don’t want this, I encourage you to run – not walk, run – to an experienced, educated marriage counselor. That’s what we did and it saved our marriage.
Technically, this issue is called a ‘lack of differentiation’. It’s when we have a hard time defining ourselves as individuals. It involves knowing what is important to us, setting boundaries between ourselves and others, and knowing how to handle the anxiety that comes with being intimate with someone else.
A lack of differentiation is rooted in fear. It basically means we’re scared.
We’re scared the other person doesn’t really value us, or that they’ll respond with hostility, or that we’ll just make things worse, or that it won’t change anything.
Is that how you want to operate? Out of fear?
I challenge you to take control of your relationship. Pursue help. . Your marriage is worth it.Learn More