THE FOUR HEALERS: Part 2 of
IS YOUR MARRIAGE ON THE PATH TO DIVORCE
Matthew Anderson, D.Min.
More than 50% of marriages end in divorce and a large portion of those who stay married live in relationships that are far from happy. Why? I am convinced, after almost 4 decades of working with couples and being married myself, that the reason we are unhappy is mostly due to poor education and immaturity.
Poor education does not mean that we lack a college degree. It means that we are poorly trained in what makes a relationship work. Most people have very little idea about what they could actually do to make themselves or their partner happy. And, sadly, most people go into marriage with no training and with the naïve (immature) attitude that marriage should simply make itself work. This formula never works…..but we keep on trying the same thing and expect a new result every time we say “I do”. This, in popular terms, is called insanity.
Many marriages could get a lot better if both partners heeded the guidance in these 2 articles (Part 1 and Part 2). Part 1 described 4 powerful no-no’s for marriage: Defensiveness, Stonewalling, Criticism and Contempt. If you want a bad, unhappy marriage that is on the path to divorce be sure to include all 4. If you want a great increase in happiness then read and apply Part 1.
Today I want to explore the positives. I have taken the big, bad four and have described their opposites. If you want to significantly increase your marital happiness then use all 4 of these highly effective techniques. If you want to remain miserable, don’t. I am not kidding about this. Many people would rather blame their spouse for their unhappiness (and be right) then take responsibility for making positive change. You get to decide which one you will be.
Remember: One person is NEVER, NEVER, NEVER the cause of a bad marriage. It takes two to be unhappy.
I have described the opposites of each of the negative qualities of a bad marriage relationship. Check each one and see how well you rate and then decide to increase one or more.
1- The opposite of Defensive is…………….being undefended, open, vulnerable, receptive, being willing to consider or see the other’s point of view, not having to be right.
Vulnerability, being undefended, increases trust and openness. It makes you accessible to your partner. It opens hearts and minds. It makes your partner feel safe with you and that you can be approached and embraced. It makes true intimacy (emotional and physical) possible. It also engenders compassion.
2- The opposite of Stonewalling is…………responsive, emotionally accessible and visible, penetrable, empathetic, willing to dialogue, willing and able to show authentic interest in the other person’s feelings and thoughts.
Being responsive and empathetic removes any semblance of hardness and lack of caring. It creates the possibility of a healthy back and forth flow of communication. It allows your partner to really get to know who you are, what you need and what you feel.
3- The opposite of Criticism is……….approving, acknowledging, accepting, supportive, forgiving.
Being accepting and affirming usually brings out the highest and best in your partner. It creates an atmosphere of trust and a willingness to share one’s deeper self. It increases the experience of gratitude and gratitude is one of the most important ingredients in a happy marriage.
4- The opposite of Contempt is……….respect, honoring, gratefulness, appreciation, treasuring the other, an attitude of “I- Thou”.
Having an “I-Thou” attitude about your partner opens the door to a truly spiritual relationship in which both partners begin to heal their relationship with self, with others and with God. Nothing takes a relationship lower than contempt and nothing takes it higher than an I-Thou attitude.
Most married persons never realize the full and magnificent possibilities of marriage. Deep intimacy, inner healing, real acceptance and spiritual growth can be achieved ……if each of the 4 characteristics described above are applied with care and commitment.
No matter where you are in your marriage, you can begin to apply any or all of these guidelines. You will not regret the effort. Go for it.