If He Would Only Change (And Other Delusions in Marriage)
by Stacey Robbins
With my coaching clients, I often sit across from a powerful, beautiful, brilliant woman who can’t figure out how she ended up in a relationship that doesn’t feel powerful, beautiful or brilliant.
I get it.
Celebrating our 26th anniversary next month, my husband and I have each gone through times of questioning why it was so hard when we wanted it to be so great. We knew it had the capacity for greatness but we didn’t know how to access it.
Maybe it was because we were too busy blaming each other and wanting the other person to change so that we could be happy.
You know the drill: Where it becomes a pissing contest of who has the more damaging issues in a relationship…and then, we focus all of our attention on that person.
(I’ll just let that sit in the awkward, uncomfortable silence for a moment while you catch your breath.)
One woman e-mailed me, asking that all-too-familiar question of “Why is it so hard?”
It’s tricky, because it requires a pause in finger-pointing in conversations for people to see that they didn’t only choose a spouse from their ideal, they chose a spouse from their places that are unhealed.
The unhealthy places sometimes run the show and then, it just all starts feeling really
In fact, it can get so challenging and so obviously ‘the other person’s fault’ that we forget to look at ourselves.
We feel like we’re doing the hard work because we’re spending all of our energy tolerating the other person — but putting up with someone doesn’t mean that we’re healing what we brought to the table. We’re so busy being hyper-focused on the other person that we don’t see our reflection in their actions.
I remember when I got to that place at year 6 in our marriage — when I stopped pointing the finger at him and his issues. I pulled the car over one day and in the parking lot of the mall, all by myself and my conviction, I laced my fingers together and asked the Universe, “Where I am a perfect fit to his issues? What needs to be healed in me through this, not after we’re through this?”
It was a tough but honest moment with myself. And asking the question, brought forth a certain surrender that gave me access to the answer and a starting point to the healing journey I needed to go on. It also took my husband out of the 30 foot deep hole he was in with me (that he couldn’t dig himself out of with the teaspoon of condemnation I had handed him) and into a more spacious place, on level ground (since I was no longer ‘above him’) to heal, himself.
To completely shift the question from, “What’s in it for me?” to “What’s for me, in this?” is when the marriage can radically change.
Life is our mirror and when we get married, we stand in front of the mirror.
Mine is 6’3 with dark hair and blue eyes.
It’s a good thing he’s cute because there were a lot of times when I wanted to send him, with a one-way ticket, on a slow boat to China.
(Just to be fair, pretty much all the grey hairs on his head have my name on them.)
So many times, I wanted to blame him for something that was my issue. He spent times doing the same with me.
This was part of my answer to the e-mail to this powerful, brilliant, beautiful young woman:
“When we have unhealed areas,
we sometimes choose someone who we think will heal us
so that we’ll grow —
but often we choose someone who will grow us
so that we can heal.”
That isn’t always so comfortable.
Growing is not always painless and healing sometimes hurts.
Sometimes in a marriage, we think we’re working ‘on the marriage’
When really, it’s that the marriage is working on us.
If we’re willing to look at ourselves and work on our stuff, then, the marriage becomes that place where the healing can happen.
I’m not saying it’s that way all the time. But very often, whether someone chooses to stay or to leave, I tell them this:
“No matter where you choose to be… in or out of the relationship, that is up to you — but either place you land, you still have to do the work.”
Those unhealed places don’t heal themselves. Well, they don’t heal themselves when you’re waiting for someone else to stop being who you are.
As a friend of mine said, “Stop trying to wipe the pimple off the mirror.”
The question is: Where are you going to be, and who are you going to be with, while you do the healing?
My thoughts? No marriage is perfect, because we all enter it with healthy and unhealed places so, lead with your strengths, examine yourself when you’re tempted to point a finger, and play a lot. (Marriages thrive when couples going through hard times take the time to have fun.) And if you’re going to have to grow and heal in life, you may as well choose the person you want to go through the hard times with.
Because when you get to the other side of the hard stuff, you’ll not only have a better grasp on who you are, but you’ll have a relationship that you know can handle the great times, because it weathered the tough ones.
To book a coaching session with Stacey, fill out the contact form here.