Marriage Should Actually Be Spelled ‘Mirage’
Written By: Mark Smith
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I’m going to get back to the basics of marriage counseling this week. Mirriam Webster’s dictionary defines the word ‘mirage’ as “something illusory and unattainable”. Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines the word ‘Illusion’ as “a perception of something objectively existing in such a way as to cause misinterpretation of it actual nature”. In other words, what you see is not always what you get.
No where does this illusion syndrome come into play more then in marriage and relationships. We all think that we are getting somebody different then who we are really getting. During courtship she perceived him as nurturing, sensitive, giving, and talkative. However, after two years of marriage she realizes that he has become distant, withholding and resentful for her requests for attention. As they were falling in love he saw her as sweet, responsible and spunky in a cute way. Now he sees her as aggressive, controlling and domineering. Welcome to the mirage of marriage!
The cause of such misunderstandings has much more to do with the inherent blindness of love then it does with any deliberate misrepresentations on the part of the loved one. The goal of marital therapy is to fully take the blinders off. Perceptions can seem so real – but they aren’t real, they are limited, tinted, and distorted by unresolved emotional issues and by the unique emotional and cultural climate of the family that we were raised in.
While on a conscious level love is blind as a bat, I believe that relationship contracts are primarily negotiated on an unconscious level. Relationship patterns repeat themselves from one generation to the next because we are attracted to partners who help us to re-play the themes from our childhoods. A man who quietly resented his domineering mother replays his childhood by playing the role of the henpecked, passive aggressive husband to a domineering wife. Consciously a daughter of an alcoholic abhors the thought of marrying an alcoholic – but many of them, if not a majority so just that. If you were abandoned as a child in any way you will marry someone who then will abandon you. If you were raised with rage you will either become a rager or you will marry one. A marriage starts on the road to recovery when both parties understand why they picked who they picked and they accept that there are no victims in the room.
If a couple can understand that there aren’t any bad guys in the marriage, that in fact they have been misperceiving each other due to the blind spots they inherited by growing up in their particular families of origin and that they selected each other for specific unconscious reasons that have to do with unresolved childhood issues needs and expectations, the they are ready for an adventure of learning, growing and changing their marriages for the better. Such objective couples are a joy to work with. While there are still misperceptions, illusions and conflicts; with the therapist acting as an interpreter, the couple learns how to understand the unique language of their spouse’s tainted family emotional field. Given time and a lot of hard work the mirages, illusions and misperceptions become fewer and fewer. What is left is two healthier, more insightful and more importantly more real individuals who then have the tools to negotiate their relationship in a productive and loving manner.
There are no victims in marriage. The responsibility for marital issues is always 50% - 50%. We are all responsible for the choices that we have made. Do you buy into that? The sense of victimization in a spouse is a marriage killer. My main task with any couple I work with is to move both parties away from the victim perspective and towards responsibility and insight. Marital problems are an opportunity to learn about ourselves and to heal unresolved childhood wounds. If either you or your spouse has taken a victim’s stance then marital therapy is vital to move your marriage into a proactive and healthy dialogue. Marital therapy isn’t as uncomfortable or scary as you might think. Almost every couple needs some couch time at some point in their marriage.
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