Having just completed a particularly passionate Marriage Intensive, I’m struck by how easily it is to become entrenched, welded to, attitudes of deception (passive-aggression), closed demeanor (withholding) and resistance. These attitudes, as you may quickly notice, are the opposite of what is needed to move forward in a relationship fraught with problems.
“I’m just so bitter,” Daniel quickly admitted during our first session. “You don’t know what I’ve been through. The years of turmoil we’ve experienced.” He turned his head away in disgust.
His wife, Candace, seemed unruffled.
“What are you thinking, Candace?” I asked.
“I’m just wondering how long he’s going to be like this? I wonder if he’s going to open up and work here or if this is one huge waste of time.”
“Pretty hard to come in here all perky,” Daniel snarled. “He’s going to have to hear how much we’ve both been through.”
“I’m glad you put it that way,” Candace added. “Neither of us tried to create this. It just happened and we’ve got to be together in figuring things out.”
“Hmm,” Daniel added.
I watched and considered how this Intensive was likely to begin. I offered them the following instructions, hoping to set the stage for change.
“Folks, there are several key attitudes that are required for us to change this Frog Pond Mess that you’ve co-created. I’d like to share them with you as they will set the stage for real change to occur.”
1. All of your sharing must be gently honest.
Scripture tells us we must speak the truth in love. We are never to share truth in a way that is hurtful. All our words must be chosen carefully, but we must ‘make the unspoken spoken’ (Ephesians 4:29). We cannot hold back on talking about situations where we have been wounded. Relationships require a candor that can be quite uncomfortable.
I wondered aloud whether Daniel and Candace would be willing to share their truth in ways that would not be injurious, such as by using accusations, blame and shame. Since emotions are contagious, a calm and honest attitude is likely to create a calm and honest attitude in your mate.
2. All of your sharing must include openness.
Transparency is a lost commodity in broken relationships. Unhealed wounds and hurts create distance. Calluses develop unwittingly, creating distance and disconnection. Couples must agree to share from their most vulnerable aspects of their being. They must ready themselves to hear things they would rather not hear. This sets the stage for growth.
Defensiveness is the enemy of growth. As much as we say we are open to feedback, most of us send the exact opposite message: “I don’t really want to hear what you think, especially if it’s critical.” Yet, this is often exactly what we need to hear.
3. All of your sharing must promote willingness.
Flexibility and receptivity are the friends of emotional growth. We must guard against getting stuck in either our attitudes or former ways of acting. Growth requires that reinforce attitudes of open sharing and willingness to work together to find solutions to long-term problems.
Are you honest, open and willing? Are you ready to hear things you would rather not hear? Are you ready to say truths you’d rather not say? These traits can become the backbone to significant relationship growth.
Share your feedback or send a confidential note to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on my website www.marriagerecoverycenter.com where you’ll find videos and podcasts on saving a troubled relationships, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage. Please ask about my free 20-minute consultation.