Underneath it all, we all just want to connect with one another. Especially with our spouse, right? We want to feel heard, be accepted and fully loved despite our flaws and shortcomings. It’s almost like our very happiness and well-being depend on whether we can connect in these ways. Yet we aren’t always the best at communicating our deepest needs or representing ourselves authentically, let alone identifying what feels “off” in the first place. The more I work with couples and families, I observe that the crux of many relational conflicts stem from how we harbor some form of miscommunicated, misinterpreted or unidentified emotional wounds and how they block intimacy and connection. We act in ways to try and bring our spouse closer to us, yet we end up pushing them away by doing so. We desperately want to feel close and connected, but can somehow end up feeling more alone. To better understand how this happens, we need to take a close look. Consider this: if we have rejection, betrayal or abandonment in our history, how are we certain it does not show up in our marriages? What about that sense of shame or guilt that won’t seem to leave us alone; does that take a backseat when it comes to how we interact, treat or respond to our spouses? Or what about residual effects of trauma? Fears of failure? How do these emotions stay out of our attempts to connect or better our relationships? The truth is, unless we’ve done some deep work around these wounds and are quick to identify any triggers to our innermost needs and fears, they inevitably show up with our loved ones and get. in. the. way.
Research demonstrates that marriage is the single-most important relationship we will ever have. Makes sense, right? We meet our spouse, fall in love, spend hours upon hours sharing and getting to know each other and then we make a lifetime commitment to one another for better or worse. Yet, our spouse seems to have a funny way of stirring and brushing up against our greatest emotional wounds. Some people say that the best “self-help” program you can go through is to get married, because it is our spouse that picks up on, reacts to, mirrors and triggers us the most. Want to know your greatest opportunities of personal growth? Just ask your partner! While that may or may not actually be a good idea, the point remains that we often feel our deepest pain the most in the context of a marriage. So, it boils down to whether we feel truly safe with our partner: safe to speak our minds, safe to be authentic, safe to be accepted, safe to be trusted and be trustworthy, etc. A key to marital satisfaction and personal healing are hand in hand when we are able to uncover where we feel most unsafe and wounded, work towards giving words and context around fears and then learning how to communicate these to one another. For more information or if you have any questions, please contact a therapist at Emery Counseling where one of us will be happy to assist you and your spouse!
~ Sara Hunter