Another thing about Marriage in Marriage Conversation is to take full responsibility for your own happiness is one essential basis for successful partnering. What that means is this: you no longer get to use your partner as the scapegoat for what you lack. You no longer get to blame her for the coldness you learned earlier in life or the rigidity you yourself were raised with. You no longer get to complain about his ‘lack of feeling,’ his insensitivity or his ‘inability’ to connect with the children. These all may seem objectively true to you but the truth is, most of us cannot ‘see’ our partner for who they are. We see them through a filter and that filter was there when we met.
Hormones temporarily disable the filters. Hope floods in and we walk around with a transcendent feeling of goodness and hope. As hormones diminish we, slowly it seems, return to the familiarity of our filters – those necessary survival mechanisms we created to surf the losses and wounds in our family of origin.
To disable these filters, we need conflict. The reality of who we really are living with is stunning. The imagined reality of our projections on our partner – who we are afraid they are – can be devastating. Five to seven years into marriage, many marriages simply give up. Conflict is inevitable and necessary.
Conflict is a natural consequence of change and growth. True conflict, I believe, is best seen as a natural consequence of love. How’s that? Well, the people I care most about, those who are most important to me, matter. What they say matter, what they do matters, who they are and are becoming matters.
I may not be comfortable with change but its inevitability forces me to face it. In facing change in myself or in my partner I am forced to face another reality. And that reality is this: the ‘world’ I walk around living in may not be the real world my partner is living in. In facing this potential dissonance, I experience two kinds of conflict. One, I’m not who I say I am (inner conflict) and my partner may not be who I think they are. Facing the differences is often a challenge.
There is, of course, good conflict as well as useless (unproductive) conflict.
Stephen W. Frueh PhD is a coach, consultant, writer and speaker. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 805 338 4286
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