Trusting Yourself in Marriage Many couple’s have a one foot in, one foot out approach to their marriage. Sound familiar? Read how to change the dynamic. BY WENDY STRGAR
Don't fight the relationship that you chose, embrace it and reap the rewards.
“ The more you focus on what your marriage needs, the more your own needs get met. ”
There is no life as complete as the life that is lived by choice. ~Unknown
The problem with many marriages is that we don’t trust our own choices. For many couples, this lack of trust starts early in the relationship, when we first encounter the difficulties of sharing a life with another or, more challenging still, the foibles of our chosen partner. We question whether we have made a mistake in choosing our spouse, and often this question comes in the form of pulling ourselves (partly) out of the relationship.
Look around and notice how many relationships you have or that you are witness to that are qualified by one or sometimes both partners, having one or sometimes both feet out the door.
The surprising irony in this lethal trend of relating is that, more often than not, we choose to struggle and carry on with the relationship. If you consider your marriage as the most gentle and thorough education available for growing up and becoming your best self, then the most challenging dynamics in a relationship have something deep and transformative to offer you. This is often an emotionally wrenching process. You and your spouse’s identity markers—the unresolved past pains—articulate aspirations that all mingle with those of your spouse. It is easy for this messy process to feel like a mistake. You begin to feel forced to let go of things that you thought were essential and are slowly taught how to hold on to things that seemed impossible.
You can’t do this work justice with only half of your presence. And the part that is hanging back is not usually a cheerleader. The part that pulls away from the work often shows up as the small silent voice in your head that says it is impossible—it should be easier… confirming the mistake you fear. The piece of our heart that remains is torn before the work begins and is unable to bring your full courage to this essential work of growing up.
I have engaged in this futility for years myself. I was indignant and, at times, even belligerent about having to deal with my in-law dynamics. It was too painful to bear with only half of me holding it. It took me years, and it is something that I am still coming to understand that choosing it fully is what changes the experience inside.
Our tendency towards self -protection is better served by subjugating our individual needs to the needs of the marriage. The more you focus on what your marriage needs, the more your own needs get met. Conversely, when standing with one foot out the door and assessing our ability to meet our own needs in the relationship, we create a hole through which all of the good intention for the marriage leaks out. It is an invisible, slow leak that will undoubtedly drain the relationship’s potential.
The degree to which you hold yourself out of your relationship is proportional to what you are able to get out of it. This is true not only with your spouse, but all of our relationships—work, family, even those made through hobbies. It is a tendency that easily and invisibly replicates itself, because remaining comfortably disengaged evolves into a mental habit and before long is a personality characteristic.
Moreover, this habitual way of halfway relating often leaves us stuck in the no man’s land of not being able to truly choose when to leave or how to stay. Like the holding pattern of a jet over a landing strip, you are stuck, waiting for a message from the tower that will let you take off or land.
The wisest choice we can make in any circumstance is having the courage to trust our choices and give ourselves fully to the life we have chosen. This practice will transform all of your relationships, beginning with yourself. There is no halfway in matters of the heart, and living from this space cheats you out of the best life has to offer. Shakespeare, of course, said it best when he wrote, "See first that the design is wise and just; that ascertained, pursue it resolutely."
Wendy Strgar, founder and CEO of Good Clean Love, is a loveologist who writes and lectures on Making Love Sustainable, a green philosophy of relationships which teaches the importance of valuing the renewable resources of love, intimacy and family. In her new book, "Love that Works: A Guide to Enduring Intimacy," she tackles the challenging issues of sustaining relationships and healthy intimacy with an authentic and disarming style and simple yet innovative advice. It has been called "the essential guide for relationships." The book is available on ebook. Wendy has been married for 27 years to her husband, a psychiatrist, and lives with their four children ages 13-23 in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.