Where Does Accountability Begin With Adults Wounded As Children?
Written By: Mark Smith
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I received the following excellent question from a woman from Dallas I'll call Kelly this week.... "What drew me to your article "At This Point Your Marriage Is SUPPOSED To Be Miserable!" is that I am currently suffering through my 2nd marriage (long story). My question to Mr. Smith is after the childhood pains are out in the open with couples, at what point is personal accountability given to people based on their own, conscious choices? Past a certain point, mature grown-ups can't continue to blame their actions on the pains and disappointments from being a hurt little girl or boy. Just curious. Thanks!"
Since this was such a great question the answer was going to take some time, I thought that it would make a great blog posting. First of all Kelly, I hope that you, like myself, are a Dallas Cowboy fan? Next year will be our year, I am sure of it! You gotta love our boy Tony Romo!
Okay, first of all, as adults, we are all accountable for our behaviors. If a man grew up in poverty and was abandoned by his parents he will still need to go to jail if he gets caught robbing a bank. Kelly asked "after the childhood pains are out in the open with couples, at what point is personal accountability given to people based on their own conscious choices". It is great when couples gain insights into their childhood wounding. That is only a beginning point though. That doesn't heal the problem at its core. That takes some time. Actually it takes a lifetime, but in two to three years of intensive work it can get better enough to make it possible to have a reasonably happy and connected marriage if the spouse also does their work. To know it isn't to control it. Personal accountability that is 'given' comes from people around the wounded person in question. There aren't any marriage police who will show up to correct your husband if he is drinking too much or not making you a high enough priority or a wife who is nagging or withholding sex. There are no marital rules that spouses must follow.
You make your own rules! You cut your own deals! The problem is that if you were loved poorly as a child, as most of us were, you end up cutting some pretty crappy deals for yourself in the love department. So don't be bitter at the other person. They are who they are. They are who you picked out of a whole wide world of choices. They are who you continue to choose every day that you stay with them. It is your job to hold your spouse accountable. If you attempt to do so with reactive criticism it usually doesn't go over so well.
Kelly, you say that you are currently suffering through your second marriage? How is husband #2 like the worst and most hurtful qualities of your parents? How much was husband #1 like the worst and most hurtful qualities of your parents? Knowing what your issues are and thinking you are a mature grown up won't help you one lick with who you pick as a husband. You can't help who you are attracted to. You like who you like. Unfortunately, the way we all are wired is that we ONLY are attracted to people who have the worst and most hurtful characteristics of our parents. Learn from your suffering! Squeeze all the insight, growth and healing that you can out of your marital pain. Your marriage IS your therapy. It is all fair and it is all good. There are no victims in marriage. You will need the help of a good therapist with this project. Go to a therapist that connects the childhood issues with the marital issues. Any therapist who doesn't do so doesn't have the slightest clue what they are doing.
Kelly wrote "Past a certain point, mature grown-ups can't continue to blame their actions on the pains and disappointments from being a hurt little girl or boy." I've got so much to say about this! It isn't about blaming. It is about NAMING the truth about what did and what didn't happen during your childhood. If you were sexually or physically abused as a child then it is NOT blaming when you hold your parents accountable for the severe relationship difficulties that will will have as an adult as you re-enact those abusive situations in your love life. We shouldn't be mean or bitter towards our parents. But to respectfully acknowledge to them the massive damage that was done to the very core of your soul and how that impacted current relationships is both appropriate and courageous. It offers a possibility of healing the parent/adult child relationship at best and to at least heal things within yourself that need healed. This same dynamic holds for lesser forms of abuse and abandonment in childhood - the critical mother, the distant father, etc. I also object to the term "mature grown-ups". I don't know any of those! We are all grown up on the outside but wounded little kids on the inside.
If just growing older made us into "mature grown-ups" then people wouldn't be knocking down my door all week long looking for a safe place to have a mature conversation with their spouses. When they try to talk at home the end result is neither mature or grown-up. That is the condition of mankind. Everybody you know has a good bit of dysfunction and it comes out the most in your significant other relationship. The very purpose of marriage is to help to heal your childhood wounds.
I will end with a quote from my provocatively titled article that Kelly quoted 'At This Point Your Marriage Is SUPPOSED To Be Miserable!' "Marital issues are an opportunity for you to look at you and to examine your flaws and wounds. It is not a place to point a finger at your spouse. Divorce really isnít a good option at all. Mainly because you are guaranteed to marry the same person all over again the second time around, not to mention the devastation it causes your children, your finances and yourselves. Spouse #2 or #3 will just have a different name and a different face and a whole lot of messy baggage for all concerned. Face your pain. Embrace your pain. Normalize it. It is normal as breathing. But you cannot figure this out for yourself. If you could have you would have by now. One of you needs to realize that there is a serious condition that needs attention and seek the proper help. By proper help I mean ONLY a therapist who ties your childhood wounding to your current state of marital unhappiness and who fosters a community of Recovery for both of you in a safe and directive environment where truths about both of you are boldly and cuttingly named and owned. It isnít about fixing the marriage. It is about fixing two broken wounded people who have been trying like hell to push each other to the very end of themselves. That can be very redemptive. It is time to get some help for yourself."
I hope that I answered your questions Kelly. You aren't quite fully a grown-up yet, kiddo. There is a wounded little girl inside you and face it - she is the one who has been in charge of picking your hubbies. Get to know that wounded little girl. Do some very intensive therapy. Try to fix things with husband #2 and if that can't happen then spend a great deal of time healing your self before marrying husband #3. Your pain is your teacher and your healer. It isn't about him. It is all about you and the wounds of your childhood. Good luck to you and God Bless. Go Cowboys!!!
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