Confronting the fear of intimacy that causes marriage problems

The COVID-19 crisis is forcing us as married couples to be together more than usual.

Have you noticed how marriage problems you’ve avoided in the past are now coming to the surface?

Well join the crowd!

Did you know that underneath so many of those marriage problems is an unconscious fear of intimacy?

“But,” you say, “I don’t have a fear of intimacy.” 

Did I mention this fear is unconscious?

Could it be that all this extra time together is forcing you to confront your fear of intimacy?

Let’s not miss this opportunity! Let’s talk about  how to identify and disarm the fear of intimacy that causes marriage problems.

According to Imago Relationship Theory, a universal human longing is to be in connection and at the same time feel safe. 

The longing for intimacy is evident in the Romantic Stage of our relationship. 

When we start out we want to know everything about our partner, and we want our partner to know everything about us. 

During the Romantic Stage, information and energy flows into the relationship and it feels full and alive and exciting. 

But soon, intimacy requires an openness and vulnerability we’ve never experienced.

That’s when we move into the Power Struggle Stage. The power struggle happens in part because we are unwilling to be open and vulnerable with our partner. 

Deepening intimacy in a relationship takes us to an increasingly vulnerable place. That can be terrifying (that’s not too strong a word).

Because our brains are hardwired for survival, intimacy terrifies us.

I’m terrified that if I share a certain part of myself it will be rejected. So I avoid the opportunity for intimacy.

This fear comes from early childhood where we were wounded in our first experiences of connection.  As good as the best parents are, wounding still happens to all of us to some degree. 

In response to this wounding, we create certain character adaptations based on the unconscious triggered responses of fight, flight, freeze, or submit.

Then in our adult relationship, when we feel vulnerable, we use these same behaviors we learned in childhood to take “exits” from the relationship.

We create ways to have a sense of “staying in connection” without having to risk the danger or pain of real connection. 

That’s when the movement of energy and information that made the relationship so full and alive and exciting starts to flow away from the relationship. 

It’s also when you hear couples say things like, “We’re so busy with the kids, and work, and all our activities, we just don’t have time for each other any more.” 

I don’t want to minimize stressors from the outside. There’s a reality there. Our relationship is an open system that is always being affected by outside forces.

But the real issue is not stress from the outside. It’s the fear of intimacy on the inside. 

Although we long for intimate connection, the exits we take are a result of an unconscious collusion we create with our partner to actually avoid intimacy. 

In Imago Relationship Theory we define collusion as “two people partnering together to create something that neither of them wants”. 

What?! That doesn’t make any sense!

Well, consider my own example.

During this crisis my wife Sandy and I  have discovered that we have ways of working together to maintain the illusion of closeness while at the same time keeping a comfortable distance in order to avoid intimacy.

We use our learned childhood attachment behaviors to be able to feel relatively safe.

I’ll get upset at Sandy, but I don’t want to talk about it.  Sandy senses the tension, and also wants to avoid it. So we decide to watch a movie.

With the help of Netflix we can go into a state of mindlessness and never bring up the thing we need to talk about.

We give each other the experience like everything’s OK, because we now have a comfortable distance between us. 

We long for a deeper sense of intimacy, but because we’re afraid…

We collude together to prevent ourselves from getting what we really want while giving ourselves what we really don’t want – a comfortable distance.

And what happens with that thing I need to talk about? Nothing. It’s stuffed where it will simmer. It stays there unresolved and it will continue to grow inside of me.

And things will get worse between us, unless we decide to deal with our fear of intimacy, close the exits, and find the deeper intimate connection we long for.

What about you? What are your exits? 

Work? Netflix?  Hobbies? The children? All exits rob your relationship. Some exits, like affairs or pornography are even more destructive.

So what do we do?

Let’s close the exits, be brave, make ourselves vulnerable and reconnect in deeper intimacy!

Imago Relationship Therapy has a wonderful tool that will help us do that. It’s called the Commitment Dialogue. Click on the link to print it out.

The Commitment Dialogue is used to identify and close “exits”, i.e. places where you are getting your needs met outside your relationship. 

By closing exits you make more time and energy available for your relationship. 

The Commitment Dialogue takes you through the Imago steps of Mirroring, Validating, and Empathizing which are essential to create safety where vulnerability can happen.

Then it ends with a commitment to talk your frustrations out rather than acting them out in ways that avoid intimacy and connection with your partner.

Try it and let me know how it worked for you in the comment section below. 

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3 steps to healing the childhood wounds affecting your marriage

Does your partner’s controlling behavior open up old wounds of feeling smothered by a controlling parent? Or does your partner’s emotional withdrawal trigger wounds of abandonment or rejection from an emotionally distant parent?

Here’s some good news!

Because your partner can trigger your childhood wounds, your partner is also the one who can heal them.

Marriage is all about getting what you didn’t get in childhood.

How do childhood wounds happen?

Your parents may have unintentionally wounded you in two ways: Intrusion or Neglect.

Intrusion is over-involvement. Neglect is under-involvement.

If that intrusion or neglect caused you to feel a loss of connection, it’s what we call a wounding experience.

And unfortunately we bring these old wounds and unmet needs into our marriage where they can cause problems if we don’t address them.

Here is a helpful tool (created by Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt) that will help you identify your unmet childhood need and find healing from your partner.

1. Identify the “early challenge” that may be affecting your marriage.

Think about whether your parents were intrusive or neglectful. Then study the two lists below under MY EARLY CHALLENGE. Write down the ONE (and only one from the two lists) that most represents your greatest early challenge.

MY EARLY CHALLENGE

If I had INTRUSIVE parents…
I wanted:​
  • To get free from feeling controlled by others.
  • To express my own thoughts rather than what I should think.
  • To express what I felt rather than what I should feel.
  • To experience my thoughts and feelings as important.
  • To do what I wanted to do rather than what I ought to do.
  • Other (If there was something you wanted not on the list)
If I had NEGLECTFUL parents…
I wanted:
  • To experience feeling seen and valued rather than invisible.
  • To be approached by others rather than feel alone or abandoned.
  • To feel appreciated as a person.
  • To get support for what I think or feel.
  • To have someone interested in what I want and like.
  • Other (If there was something you wanted not on the list)

After you’ve written down one item from the two lists above go to step 2.

2. Identify the “early need” that may be affecting your marriage.

Just as you did with your early challenge, study the ten items below MY EARLY NEED. Write down the ONE (and only one) that most represents your greatest early need. 

MY EARLY NEED

If I had INTRUSIVE parents…
I needed:
  • To have space and time to myself on a regular basis
  • To experience trust from others in my thinking and my decisions. 
  • To be asked what I feel and what I want.
  • To experience genuine and reliable warmth when I need it.
  • To experience what I do and want is valued by others.
  • Other (If there was something you wanted not on the list)
If I had NEGLECTFUL parents…
I needed:
  • To experience a show of interest in me when I am talking.
  • To be responded to when I asked for it.
  • To ask me what I want, feel and think and then respond.
  • To show curiosity about my experiences in life.
  • To get love and a gentle touch frequently and without having to ask.
  • Other (If there was something you wanted not on the list)

After you’ve written down one item from the two lists above go to step 3.

3. Communicate your early challenge and need to your partner in a “Safe Conversation”.

Use the Couples Dialogue format below to share with your partner the childhood need you brought into your marriage. Allow your partner to respond in a way that will meet that childhood need and bring healing.

YOU: “When I was a child, I lived with caretakers who were generally _______________ (Neglectful or Intrusive), and my relational challenge with them was to ________________ (the CHALLENGE you wrote down).”

PARTNER: (Mirrors)

YOU: “And when I remember that, I feel __________ .”

PARTNER: (Mirrors)

YOU: “What I needed most from them was _______ (the NEED you wrote down).”

PARTNER: (Mirrors)

PARTNER: (Summarizes) “Let me see if I got all of that. In summary, your caretakers were generally  _____ and the relationship challenge you had with them was to _____. When you remember that, you feel _____. What you needed from them was _____, and not getting that from them, you brought _____ to our relationship. Did I get it all?”

PARTNER: (Validates) “You make sense, and what makes sense is that if your caretakers were _____, then your challenge would have been _____, and that your relationship need would be ______. It also makes sense that not getting that in your early years, you would bring it to our relationship. Is that an accurate validation?”

PARTNER: (Empathizes) “And given that, I can imagine that if you’re relationship need to ______ was met by me, you would feel _______ (glad, relieved, happy, connected, heard, etc.). Is that your feeling? Are there other feelings?”

PARTNER: “Thank you for sharing with me your unmet need caused by your childhood challenges. I want very much for you to have your needs met in our relationship.”

YOU: “Thank you for listening and for wanting to understand this about me, and for helping me with it.”

Give each other a one-minute, full body hug.

THEN SWITCH ROLES AND REPEAT THE PROCESS.

Finally, let me know how it went in the reply section below! Share your story with all of us!

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Is self-rejection causing problems in your marriage? It’s more common than you think

Sam and Anna were not happy in their marriage. One big reason was that self-rejection was blocking Anna’s ability to receive love from Sam.

“No matter what I do to try and make her happy, nothing is ever good enough!” Sam complained in frustration.

Anna not only deflected Sam’s attempts to show her love, she often criticized those attempts as not being good enough.

If Sam commented on how good she looked, she pointed out her flaws. If Sam went out of his way to buy her something she liked, there would always be something not quite right about it.

Eventually Sam stopped even trying.

What was going on?! How did Sam and Anna go from such a romantic and passionate relationship they had in the beginning to this place of unhappiness?

Part of their problem was Anna’s self-rejection.

1. Self-rejection is a universal problem

Everyone rejects or hates some aspect of themselves often without even knowing it.

Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt wrote in their book Receiving Love,

“Self rejection is the most universal and least recognized problem in our lives. It is the source of all our difficulties in giving and receiving love.”

2. Self-rejection begins in childhood

You may be rejecting a part of yourself you aren’t even aware of.  It could be related to your feelings, your thinking, your sensing, or your talents.

You probably aren’t aware of it because your self-rejection began in childhood. And now it’s preventing you as an adult from being a fully alive, whole person, capable of fully giving and receiving love.

When Anna was little, her dad was an alcoholic and was often away on business. Her memory of him, whenever he was home, was that he was either quiet and withdrawn or drunk and explosive in anger.

Her mom was a “go along to get along” kind of person and Anna didn’t really have a close connection with her either.

Anna felt she was not allowed to express emotions of happiness or sadness. Her mother was stoic, always trying to do the right thing, but never shared her feelings about anything.

Whenever Anna expressed any feelings or desires she had, she got the message that she was “too emotional and needy”.

The message was “having needs is dangerous” and this belief was deeply impressed on her tender, young, unconscious mind.

Growing up she learned, “You can only be safe by NOT having needs”.

This caused Anna to reject the part of herself that experienced emotions as she was growing up. She learned to deny the part of her that needed normal, loving affirmations. She learned to withdraw and minimize her reactions in order to protect herself.

Children learn quickly to do whatever they have to do to survive their wounding experience.

Anna’s rejection of her “emotional self” also resulted in a loss of joy and feelings of aliveness.

3. Self-rejection results in a “receiving deficiency” in your marriage

So now, as an adult in a marriage relationship, those old fears of “being needy” were triggered at times when Sam would make a loving gesture toward her.

As a result, Anna had trouble accepting the good things that Sam offered. Her self-rejection had become a “receiving deficiency” in her marriage.

Because she was not aware of her inability to receive love, she unconsciously erected a barrier between her and Sam – a barrier that blocked his efforts to love her.

This was so hurtful to Sam that he eventually lost hope and was ready to give up on the relationship.

4. Self-rejection results in criticism of your partner

Anna’s criticism of Sam’s attempts to love her was clearly a reflection of how harsh she was on herself.

Anna had learned to hate and reject that emotional part of herself that had needs. So whenever Sam’s actions threatened to awaken that part of her, it was met with harsh criticism.

Anna’s self-criticism manifested in criticism toward Sam.

That made it difficult, if not impossible, for her to be nurtured by Sam’s loving gestures.

5. Self-rejection results in an inability to give love

Ironically Anna expressed that she felt like she was giving more than she was receiving in the relationship. She was unable to see how she was receiving a lot more than she could acknowledge.

She also discovered that you can’t give what you don’t receive.

You can’t love others if you’re drawing from an empty tank. Anna felt like she was giving so much because she was “running on fumes”. But in reality she had as much trouble giving love as she did receiving love.

In order for Anna to be able to give love, she had to learn to receive love.

How to deal with self-rejection

Anna took three steps deal with her self-rejection and begin a journey toward wholeness and self-acceptance in her relationship with Sam.

1. Receive your partner’s empathy

Through the Imago Therapy process, Anna began to receive empathy from Sam.

One amazing purpose for marriage is that our partner (who is often perceived as causing our pain) is the one who can best heal our pain!

Using the Parent-Child Dialogue, Sam was able to help Anna get in touch with memories of what it was like living at home with parents who were either raging or absentee. She was able to pinpoint times when she was shamed for having needs.

Sam saw that Anna had a valid reason she could not receive his love. When Sam was able to tell her that she made sense, they were able to connect the dots and understand how Anna’s childhood had affected her ability to receive love. She discovered how it was all related to the rejection of her emotional self.

Sam listened as Anna revisited her fears. And his empathy helped her to begin dissolving those fears and feel safer with him.

When Sam declared to Anna in the dialogue, “You deserve to have these needs met”, it helped her open her heart toward him.

2. Turn your criticisms into requests

Looking behind her criticism, Anna discovered the part of herself she was rejecting.  

Helen LaKelly Hunt said, “Criticism is merely a ‘wish in disguise'”.

Discovering that wish will help you identify the part of yourself that you’ve rejected.

Anna’s request of Sam was that he not just “do things” to try to make her feel loved. She requested that he dialogue with her and allow her to make a request for what she needed or wanted. That would help her feel safe to open up and receive it.

So Anna’s criticism of Sam for just doing things for her without sensitivity to her was turned into a request to let her ask for what she needed.

Learning to ask Sam for what she really needed was the biggest step of growth toward wholeness that Anna could take…and the hardest.

It was hard because she was going up against years of unconscious programmed responses telling her that to have a need or an emotion is dangerous.

But, as she began to turn her criticisms into requests, there was a breakthrough that enabled Anna and Sam to connect more deeply with each other.

3. Share regular appreciations for efforts your partner is making

The third thing Anna and Sam did was to share regular appreciations with each other.

Sharing an appreciation for something has a powerful effect that literally changes our brain.

When we’re in pain, we become self-absorbed and we can only see things our partner is doing that cause us pain.

But when we share regular appreciations for the positive things our partner is doing, we break out of that self-absorption.

In time, our lower brain will begin to see our partner as a source of pleasure instead of pain – as a place of safety instead of danger.

Anna and Sam shared a minimum of three appreciations with each other every day using the Mirroring An Appreciation tool. As a result, new brain pathways were developed enabling Anna to receive these and other daily affirmations from Sam.

With this breakthrough, Sam and Anna found themselves on a new path toward healing and wholeness together.

What about you?

  • Do you deflect the love your partner wants to give you?
  • Does your partner feel like nothing she or he does is ever good enough?
  • Do you feel unloved even though you see your partner trying to love you?
  • Do you have trouble telling your partner what you really need?

If so, let me encourage you to follow Anna’s and Sam’s example.

Overcome your self-rejection by learning to receive and give love that heals.

For more on this subject I highly recommend the New York Times best selling book Receiving Love by Drs. Hendrix and Hunt.

 

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What you may not know about the childhood wounds affecting your marriage

When I suggest that a marriage conflict may stem from a childhood wound, some marriage partners protest.

“Wounds from childhood? Not me. My parents were great!”

“Why do you say my childhood wounds are affecting my marriage? That was in the past. I’ve moved on and the past doesn’t affect me.”

“My problem is not because of what I experienced in childhood. It’s all about how my partner treats me today!”

These are comments I’ve heard from clients or workshop participants when I share what’s called the 90/10 principle.

90% of your upset in a conflict is rooted in the past. Only 10% is related to the present.

I used to be skeptical myself, but in my experience with couples, and especially in my own marriage, I see it played out every week.

Whether or not we acknowledge it…our childhood wounds do affect our marriage.

According to relationship expert, Dr. Harville Hendrix…

Anytime you have a frustration with your partner that occurs three times or more, and you have negative feelings about it, it comes from childhood.

Emotions buried in your unconscious mind that are based on childhood can drive you to explode or withdraw, behavior that’s not productive in your relationship today.

To understand how this happens, consider with me how childhood wounding occurs.

The childhood wounding experience

Dr. Edward Tronick’s Still Face Experiment shows the interaction between a caretaker and an infant. If you haven’t seen this I encourage you to watch it now. And then let’s explore the implications together.

When the child feels connected with mom everything works well.

But when mom gives the child the “still face” causing a rupture in the connection, the child begins to feel anxiety.

When this happens in real life, we call this “un-attuned” caretaking, and it occurs to some degree in most parent-child relationships.

In busy families, especially large families, it’s hard for caretakers to stay fully attuned to every child. Most of us probably got lost in the shuffle at some point growing up.

Un-attuned care taking may not be intentional but it’s a reality.

When we lose the “attuned face”, i.e. the attuned emotions, the attuned eyes, the attuned  presence of a caretaker in childhood, we call that a “wounding experience”.

Notice how the child uses all her abilities in a desperate attempt to get mom’s attention. If that doesn’t work the child will either continue to act out, or she may withdraw and simply give up trying.

This experience shows how we adapt to childhood wounding by becoming either a maximizer (hailstorm) or minimizer (turtle).

The experience of Sarah and Eric

About a year after Sarah was born, her mom gave birth to twins who cried continually with colic. One-year-old Sarah experienced neglect.

It was not intentional. It was a time when her parents just had to do the best they could, and could not be constantly attuned to Sarah.

That’s why we say…

Healthy adults are a result of “good enough” parenting, not perfect parenting.

Sarah’s home was a normal home…

But the wounding that she experienced through unintentional neglect in childhood became a problem later in her marriage.

Sarah’s parents were under-involved. Her pain from those feelings of neglect in childhood (the 90%) was triggered by her husband Eric whenever he gave “more attention to his work than to me” (the 10%).

On the other hand Eric’s parents were over-involved. He grew up always being told what to think and what to feel. Therefore, the pain of this continual intrusion in childhood (the 90%) was triggered whenever he felt controlled by Sarah (the 10%).

And what did he do? He withdrew emotionally from Sarah when she became “controlling”. What effect did this have on Sarah? It activated more of that old pain of neglect causing even more explosive anger and need to control.

Sarah was the “hailstorm”. Eric was the “turtle”.

Our childhood defenses will always activate the childhood wounds of our partner. And vice versa.

What about you? Do you see where your childhood wounds are affecting your marriage in similar ways?

Which are you? The hailstorm or the turtle? Which is your partner?

Here is a powerful exercise that will help you better understand and empathize with your partner’s childhood wounding experience.

It’s called the Parent/Child Dialogue. Click on the link, print out two copies and follow the instructions very carefully.

As you do this simple dialogue, it’s my hope that you begin to turn your relationship of conflict into a partnership of mutual healing.

Here’s to turning conflicts into a stable connection that facilitates healing of our childhood wounds!

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Build your dream marriage part 3: Understand how your childhood affects your relationship

If we are going to build our dream marriage we must understand the effect our childhood has on our relationship.

Most couples describe their dream marriage as one that feels safe and connected.

It’s from that safety and connection that feelings of full-aliveness and relaxed-joyfulness are born and sustained.

The operative words here are “safety” and “connection”.

Safety is what makes connection possible, and connection is what keeps a relationship safe.

A dream marriage is one that does that delicate dance where the one leads to the other. And where each one is dependent on the other.

Safety leads to connection and connection preserves safety.

But why is this dance so fragile? What is it that causes relationships to become unsafe and therefore disconnected…or disconnected and therefore unsafe?

One answer: childhood defenses.

Why is she so defensive?  Why is he always overreacting? Why am I being blamed for stuff I didn’t do? Why are we fighting before we’re even aware of what hit us?

One answer: childhood defenses

It’s because we bring our childhood into our adult relationships.

What do you mean, Chuck?

The way we learned to get our way as a child will be the same strategy we use as an adult. We’ve just grown taller and more sophisticated. 🙂

A tantrum is a still tantrum. Pouting is still pouting. All those defenses that block our connection go back to our childhood. And it usually happens without any conscious awareness.

According to Dr. Gary Brainerd…

90% of our upset in an interaction is related to history. Only 10% is related to the present.

I call it the 90/10 principle.

If I have a painful, infected ingrown toenail, and on a crowded bus you happen to brush up against it with your foot, my reaction is to pop you in the mouth.

Ouch! #@$%#

And now you’re looking at me saying, “What gives?! You’re reaction makes no sense!”

But when I take off my shoe, and you look at the swollen redness, you remember a time when you had the same problem. Then you say, “Oh yeah. I get it.” And although you don’t justify my reaction, it makes sense.

At that point, we both realize that you are not the source of my pain, you are only the trigger.

The 90/10 principle.

The same thing happens on an emotional level in intimate partnerships.

Last week in Build your dream marriage part 2, we saw how we tend to marry someone with the same traits as our early caretakers. We call that our Imago.

For example, when your wife acts in a way that is similar to your mother who wounded or neglected you, your reaction to your wife may pack a powerful and surprising punch that is related more to your childhood wound than to what your wife did or said.

Dr. Herb Tannenbaum describes it as…

a 5 watt stimulus that produces a 1000 watt reaction”.

Such was the case with Mark and Deanna.

One morning they were making their bed. They both noticed a spot of blood on Mark’s pillow. Evidently he had scratched himself during the night, and it left a small stain right there on his pillow.

Deanna said, “Oh bummer, I just washed that.”

Mark felt a surge of anger and he lashed out at Deanna.

What was this all about? Why was Mark suddenly infuriated at Deanna?

Deanna said, “That’s just the way he is! He does that all the time. He has ‘anger issues’!”

Sound familiar?

It’s so easy to label people who have reactions we don’t understand.

It’s what we do when we don’t understand the 90/10 principle.

Imago Relationship Therapy tools helped Mark and Deanna go deeper and begin to understand Mark’s reaction in a way that transformed their relationship.

In one of the Couples Dialogues, Mark shared the frustration…

Mark: “When we saw that little stain on my pillow, you said, ‘Bummer, I just washed the bed clothes’. When I heard that I got really angry.”

Deanna: “Let me see if I get what you’re saying. You’re saying that when we saw that stain on the pillowcase, I said, ‘Bummer, I just washed that.’. And then you felt angry.”

“Did I get it?”  “Yes.”

“Is there more about that?”

It was when Deanna asked this powerful little question that the breakthrough came.

“Is there more about that?”

That question, designed to intensify Deanna’s curiosity and curtail her own reaction, made it safe for Mark to see, for the first time, what he’d never seen before.

And that was when the real issue behind Mark’s anger began to surface.

Mark: “Yes, it reminds me of when I was about 8 or 9 years old. My parents had separated and for some reason I started ‘wetting the bed’ at night. This happened every night and my mom, evidently couldn’t deal with it. For whatever reason, she stopped changing the bedclothes, and I had to sleep in that filth night after night. I didn’t know any better. I thought it was normal.”

You could see the compassion flood Deanna’s eyes as all the dots were now being connected.

She mirrored Mark again and asked, “Is there more about that?”

Mark: “Yes, I guess I grew up believing that my needs don’t matter. Now I realize that in some ways you’re like my mom. Not in that kind of gross neglect, but whenever you seem to scoff when I need something, it connects with that feeling that my needs don’t matter. I can see that it’s not you I’m angry at, it’s my mom.”

A major shift occurred in that moment.

Mark later reported that his awareness of this childhood wound being triggered began to change everything between him and Deanna. It enabled him to talk about the pain with her, rather than blaming and blasting her for it.

It also helped Deanna make room for Mark to feel, and to process his feelings with her, rather than walking out on his angry outbursts as she had done for years. She no longer took his reaction as personally as she had before.

She realized she was not the source of his pain and anger, only the trigger.

What about you and your partner?

Are you puzzled by your partner’s reaction? Do you feel blamed for things you don’t think you’re guilty of? Is the intensity of your reaction sometimes over the top? Do your reactions kill safety and thus sever the connection between you?

Could it be that one of the things holding you back from your dream marriage is your unawareness of  your own childhood defenses?

If you’d like more information please contact me personally and I’d be happy to give you a free 30 minute video consultation.

Also, please put your questions and comments in the reply section below and let’s keep this conversation going.

Here’s to another step in building your dream marriage!

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What do I do when my husband is avoiding conflict?

I was that husband avoiding conflict!

Here are three powerful insights that helped me stop avoiding conflict, and start engaging in a way that led us to a deeper connection as a couple.

Last week I wrote a personal account about how “Our fights started on our honeymoon! Is there any hope for us?”

The focus was on Sandy’s feeling of abandonment whenever I (Chuck) would withdraw from conflict.

Today’s focus is on how I felt controlled whenever Sandy would be upset about “being abandoned”.

Can any of you guys relate? No wonder I avoided conflict, right?

Here are some insights that helped me do my part to break this unhealthy pattern.

1. Avoiding conflict can activate the childhood wound of abandonment in your partner.

When I pulled away from Sandy to avoid conflict, I thought I was doing a good thing.

I thought, “Fighting is bad.” “Not fighting is good.” So let’s not fight.

I couldn’t understand why Sandy would get so hurt and upset when I was just “trying to do the right thing”.

It was because I didn’t see how avoiding conflict was affecting her.

My withdrawal triggered her feelings of abandonment at the deepest level.

According to Dr. Herb Tannenbaum, when our childhood wounds are triggered…

A five watt stimulus can produce a 1000 watt reaction.

So the first step for me was to become conscious of how my actions to avoid conflict activated Sandy’s childhood wound of abandonment.

You can read more about that process in last week’ post.

2. Avoiding conflict keeps you from getting the love you want.

Why did I avoid conflict?

Because I feared intimacy.

This strategy of avoidance helped me survive a childhood, where I often felt smothered and controlled.

As a child, connection and attachment was not a pleasurable experience.

So, in my adult relationship, I feared intimacy because it was tantamount to intrusion and absorption and control.

And yet what I craved more than anything was that very intimacy I was missing by avoiding conflict.

Wow! Talking about a dilemma!

I craved connection with Sandy. And yet I avoided the conflict that could lead us to that connection.

If conflict is handled well, it can lead you to a deeper connection and to getting the love you want.

We get married because we have found someone who will help us finish our childhood, by healing and recovering parts of ourselves lost along the way.

We know intuitively that this person is the key to feeling fully alive and whole again.

So marriage makes a lot of sense.

The problem is that conflict is what catalyzes the healing and growth that results in wholeness and full-aliveness.

So, if I’m avoiding conflict, I’m missing out on the whole deal.

I realized that Sandy and I did not feel connected. And by continuing to avoid conflict I was settling for less, willing to live in that disconnected state.

And it doesn’t end there. If you don’t address this it will get worse.

The partner who is avoiding intimacy will look for substitutes for that intimacy in things outside the marriage.

Things that bring a temporary feeling of being alive but it doesn’t last.

In my case, I was first driven to pursue my career with passion.

Nothing wrong with that in itself, but when it’s a replacement for the real intimacy missing in your marriage, it always turns out to be an empty illusion.

The more I would seek my full-aliveness in work…you guessed it.

The more Sandy would feel abandoned.

And although she was careful not to criticize, her negative feelings came through.

I just wasn’t measuring up!

And it was true.

What a wife needs most is to feel connected with her husband. And that feeling of connection was not there.

When the glory my career accomplishments faded, I turned to my lifelong love affair with music and my guitar became the new “mistress”.

Then it was my infatuation with road biking

…all good things, but all empty in the end.

When we’re in a marriage that doesn’t feel connected, we look for exits that we think can fill the emptiness and loneliness.

But they don’t really work. And the pattern continues.

Experts tell us that only 10% of married couples report having a truly satisfying relationship.

We were one of that 90% – staying married, but not happy campers.

The 90% settles for either a “silent divorce” where they remain together in agony and in separate lives…

…or they settle for a “parallel marriage” where they are relatively happy together, but most of their needs are being met outside the relationship through things like work, hobbies, social causes, sports, gaming, etc.

This is where we were.

But thanks to Sandy we didn’t settle there!

What did Sandy do? She talked about it.

And I’m glad she did, rather than settling for less.

I so admire her for that. She was able to identify what was missing in our marriage, and that is the reason we are where we are today.

So speak up. But do it in the context of a Safe Conversation so transformation of your relationship can occur.

Our marriage was transformed the day I realized that full-aliveness doesn’t come through all the things I was seeking outside our relationship.

Full-aliveness comes with safety, connection and passion in my relationship with Sandy.

Like Dorothy of the Wizard of Oz, I realized that everything I needed was right here with me all along.

But how did this change happen?

3. The “Commitment Dialogue” helps the “avoider” stay present and heal the one who feels abandoned.

Nothing happens in a relationship unless it’s safe.

One drop of negativity renders a conversation unsafe and therefore nothing transformational can happen.

Whenever someone withdraws from a conversation, the conversation is unsafe.

Whenever someone criticizes someone (even so called “constructive criticism”), the conversation is unsafe.

And did I say that nothing happens in a relationship unless it’s safe?

Oh yeah.

Ok, so how did you get to a Safe Conversation that brought about this change in you and Sandy?

The most powerful tool we found is called the Commitment Dialogue from Imago Couples Therapy.

Here’s how it went for Sandy and me.

After I integrated the first two insights I’ve shared above, i.e.,

1. My avoidance was hurting Sandy at the deepest level, not because I was evil, but because neither of us were conscious of the childhood wound of abandonment that was so painful.

2. My avoidance was ripping me off from the experience of full-aliveness in my relationship with Sandy.

I was ready to do…

3. The Commitment Dialogue.

Here is a summary of what happened:

Chuck made an appointment to dialogue with Sandy.

Chuck began with the sentence stem, “One activity I use to avoid connecting with you is…” And I talked about how I withdraw when I feel criticized.

Sandy mirrored using the stem, “What I hear you saying is..” She checked for accuracy by asking, “Did I get it?” And then she remained curious by asking, “Is there more about that?”

Chuck continued with more details that went deeper into his childhood.

BTW: Curiosity helped Sandy regulate her reactive emotions, and made it safe for Chuck to access his feelings.

(As a result, several new insights dropped out of  my unconscious mind, helping Sandy to better see and know the real me. And it helped me to see me too :-).

Can you see how it would have shut things down if Sandy had allowed feelings of abandonment to cause her to react rather than remain curious?

Did I say nothing can happen in a relationship that’s not safe?)

Sandy summarized what Chuck said and then VALIDATED it, using the stem “Chuck, what you’re saying makes sense, and what makes sense about it is…

Then she EMPATHIZED with Chuck saying, “I can imagine that it feels…”

Chuck finished the dialogue by saying, “I’m committing today to keep talking about this with words, rather than acting it out and withdrawing from conflict.”

At this point the new paradigm was integrated, a shift occurred, and Chuck transformed fundamentally into an “engager” rather than an “avoider”.

It’s not perfect, but it is truly a fundamental shift that has changed everything.

Now when I feel criticized or controlled, I’m working toward facing it and talking about it rather than avoiding it.

That new area of growth for me is hard. But it enables me to be present with Sandy when she needs it most.

When I do that, it brings healing for her.

The area of growth for her is learning to communicate her feelings in a safe way with zero negativity.

And of course that means healing for me.

And that makes it much easier to stay present with her and deepen our connection.

The old cycle of criticism and withdrawal is being replaced with one of safety and connection.

This new partnership of healing and growth is a “win-win” to say the least.

Share you insights and questions below…and, if you haven’t already, be sure to…

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Our marriage fights began on the honeymoon! Is there any hope for us?

This was our story!

But we learned that with the right skills you can turn a marriage with conflicts into a relationship with a deeper connection!

That’s because conflict is a sign that something new wants to emerge in your relationship.

Something that will bring healing, wholeness and deeper connection.

And sometimes that sign shows up as early as the honeymoon!

That’s what happened to me – and my wife Sandy!

Recently someone said, “Chuck, your posts are pretty good, but have all these insights worked for you in your own marriage?”

Wow! Did you have to go there?

I admit it’s always easier to talk about something than to do it.

So can I just brush this question under the rug? As my readers, you’ll never know. 🙂

Except that I just told you!

Maybe this is an opportunity.

An opportunity to go where I wouldn’t go otherwise. And open up and share some things I wouldn’t otherwise.

Ok, let’s do this!

For years, Sandy and I have been on a journey in our own marriage.

That journey is from an unconscious and reactive relationship to a conscious and connected relationship.

For us this means…

– Moving from blaming and defensiveness to empathy and connection.

– Realizing that behind every criticism is a desire not expressed.

– Realizing behind every angry outburst is a desire being expressed but not heard because of the way it’s delivered.

– Realizing that behind every withdrawal from conflict is a fear of being controlled or smothered.

We are still working on it, moving from the Romantic Stage – through the Power Struggle Stage – into the Mature Love Stage and World Impact Stage.

The Romantic Stage

It all began with two people madly in love – Chuck and Sandy.

I’ll save you the sappy details but we were IN LOVE.

I took her to Ernie’s in San Francisco for dinner.

Then to the “Top of the Mark”, Mark Hopkins Hotel for drinks.

And while looking out over that beautiful city, I asked her to be my wife.

She said “yes”! And I was the luckiest guy on the planet.

The Power Struggle

Most couples see signs of the Power Struggle anywhere from two months to two years after the wedding vows.

Our power struggle began on the honeymoon. That’s right.

As a matter of fact on the day after the wedding.

Sandy had given me a beautiful watch as a wedding gift – a battery powered, electronic watch.

One of the first of it’s kind. I’d never had one before.

Problem is, there was no instruction manual.

So I spent the first couple of hours “the morning after” (yes, the first day of our honeymoon) trying to set it up (yeah, I know.).

To me this was normal. Not doing anything wrong here.

Except for one detail. I was married now. Not alone. And we were on our honeymoon for cryin’ out loud!

Now that I’m married, it’s not really cool to just do what I want, without any consideration for the other person in the room.

But how was I to know?

As Sandy tried to communicate her disappointment to me, I immediately felt attacked.

Feelings of inadequacy overwhelmed me.

So I pulled away from her – literally withdrew from the conversation.

This really upset her and I had no idea why or what to do.

It was horrible!

Even though we “coped” and moved on, this tragic episode began a pattern that would last for years.

I’d get lost in my world (work, hobbies, whatever). Sandy would feel abandoned.

She’d express disappointment. I’d pull away further.

That would trigger more feelings of abandonment, resulting in more expression of disappointment, which would cause me to…well you get the idea.

Not good!

Welcome to the Power Struggle!

All she wanted was a close connection with me. That’s what marriage is supposed to be, right?

Like many couples we struggled to cope with this pattern.

But it always costs when you merely cope with a problem rather than dealing with it.

The price we paid for years was the insecurity of an unstable connection that could be easily ruptured.

Two precious daughters were born, as we continued to do the best we could.

What we didn’t realize is that both of us had brought our childhood wounds and defenses into our marriage.

Unconscious pain from childhood that drove me to abandon ship when criticized,

and that drove Sandy to criticize when abandoned.

The Breakthrough

I’ll save you all the gory details. But it was fight after fight. Silent-standoff after silent-standoff.

Literally “second verse same as the first – a little bit louder and a little bit worse.”

over and over…and over again.

But a breakthrough came when we began practicing Imago Couples Dialogue. The therapy I now use with couples every week.

The process slowed us down in a way that helped regulate our emotional reactions.

And that gave us a chance to see each other – things about each other we’d never seen before because of all the defenses.

Then we began to embrace our differences, and empathize with each other.

And we began to see how our childhood dramatically affected our relationship.

Sandy grew up in an amazing home. She was SO attractive. And so was her family. It was like the family I never had.

Her parents did a great job.

But even with great parents, all children experience wounding at some level.

It’s inevitable.

When Sandy was 2 ½ years old her mom had twins. Both infants suffered with colic. And both mom and dad were consumed by the need to care for them.

Some of what Sandy needed was lost in the process.

Her mom was amazing. And dad too.

But no matter how good you are as parents, wounds happen to our children in ways we’re not aware of.

This feeling of abandonment surfaced many times later growing up.

Once when her older brother got to stay out much later with his friends on Halloween. And got SO much more candy.

And she remembers another time waving goodbye to her older brother as he and his friends drove away for a ski weekend at Tahoe.

Once again she felt left behind. And left out.

Experts say that approximately 90% of our upset comes from history. 10% is related to the present.

The Dialogue help me see that the pain that Sandy felt on our honeymoon was not just because of me.

I was not the source of her pain, only the trigger.

chuck starnes relationship coach
Chuck and Sandy at Waikiki Beach

The Mature Love Stage

Here’s what we learned that helped us move from the Power Struggle to Mature Love.

1. A childhood wound of abandonment can be activated when your partner disconnects from you.

For me to “leave her” for a watch brought back all that pain from childhood.

Am I worth being taken care of? Am I worth pursuing? Am I more important than a watch?

2. Healing comes when you finally get what you needed in childhood from your intimate adult partner.

Sandy wanted me to choose her. To be close to her. To be enamored with her, not a watch (even though she gave it to me.).

Even though that didn’t happen then, it happened later.

During one of the Dialogue’s she made a change request.

In a moment of safety and empathy she made this request.

“The next time you feel like pulling away from me will you make an appointment with me to dialogue and tell me about the feelings that make you want to withdraw.”

It was a stretch for me. But when I did it, it brought healing.

It was amazing how granting this change request helped me overcome the force of my own adaptations and stay present with her.

And when a change request like this is granted, your lower brain, where all your memories and pain and defenses reside, is not going to say in that moment,

“We’ll you’re about 20 years too late!”

No! It’s going to say,

“Finally I’m getting the love I always wanted!”

And healing is the result.

3. Growth comes to the one bringing healing.

That would be me.

I can’t tell you the feelings of wholeness I experienced as I stretched and grew in to this kind of behavior Sandy was asking for.

Staying present with her was VERY hard because all I felt was anger and fear and wanting to run!

My strategy from childhood, which helped me stay alive, was not going down easily (I’ll talk more about this next week).

It literally called me to access a part of myself that I had lost and never developed growing up.

And the feeling of wholeness was something wonderful like I’d never felt before.

So what about you?

Did your fights start early on like us?

Is it hard to understand why you fight?

Does your partner’s reaction seem extreme?

Join us on this journey toward healing and wholeness.

Get the skills you need to turn marriage conflicts into a deeper connection and passion together.

If you haven’t already…

Subscribe to my email list by entering your name and email below, and receive my posts with free resources delivered to your inbox every Saturday morning.

Until next week,

Chuck (for Sandy too!)

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What to do when childhood defenses sabotage your relationship

Couples fight for one fundamental reason: they bring their childhood defenses into their relationship.

The way you learned to adapt and survive in childhood can negatively impact your adult relationships…even if you had really good parents.

To one degree or another we all bring our childhood into our relationship…

…and it happens UNCONSCIOUSLY.

And it usually happens in one of two ways.

In your relationship you’ll tend to be a “HAILSTORM” or a “TURTLE”.

Recently I heard a wife say, “When we argue I blow up! And then he does a disappearing act! It always leaves me mad, and then feeling guilty like I’m the one who screwed everything up!”

This wife is in a marriage relationship with a “MINIMIZER”, represented by the TURTLE, who withdraws into his shell when conflict occurs.
She is a “MAXIMIZER”, depicted by the HAILSTORM, insistent and intrusive. Often these two marry each other (though not always).

In the Romantic Stage of the relationship, those wonderful pleasure chemicals that cause us to fall in love with each other also blind us to many sobering realities about each other.

And in this inebriated state, the Hailstorm is drawn to the Turtle and vice versa.

And then after some time together (2 months to 2 years),  the drugs wear off, the Power Struggle Stage begins, and these same two people begin to drive each other crazy!

The Turtle and Hailstorm represent two common childhood defense strategies.

Growing up, these two may have experienced similar kinds of wounding, frustrations, or unmet needs, but each learned a different way of coping.

Each developed a strategy that helped them survive childhood.

Problem is, that same strategy is now sabotaging their adult relationship.

If you are a “Turtle”, you may driven by an unconscious fear of conflict that causes you to disengage emotionally.

Even though you crave connection with your partner, at the same time you resist that very connection, because deep down you fear the pain of losing that connection.

If you grew up in a home where anger was not allowed, or you had to shut down when people got angry, you probably still tend to check out when there is conflict. 

That’s how you survived in the past. And no one should feel judged for that!

Problem is that strategy will not work in your relationship today!

Withdrawing from conflict is like using a gun with a silencer – killing the relationship without detection.

You say, “Hey, I’m just trying to be nice and avoid a conflict.”

I get it.

But your withdrawal not only frustrates your partner, it triggers her deeper childhood pain.

That is why you are probably seeing an even greater “Hailstorm” effect when you pull away.

If you are a “Hailstorm”, your unconscious fear may drive you to explode outwardly in an attempt to get what you need.

You may have grown up in a household where you had to “get louder” in order to get others’ attention, and you probably learned to face conflict and push and shove, so to speak, until you got what you needed.

Is that you? 

This helped you survive then. So no one should judge you.

But it doesn’t work today!

It doesn’t make your Turtle partner feel loved and safe.

Trying to force your partner to be present with you will only cause him to withdraw further into his shell.

So how do we deal with these defenses and reconnect with each other?

Here are FOUR STEPS that will help you get beyond your defenses and reconnect with your partner in a close relationship of mutual healing and growth.

1. Mirror the frustration.

As a Turtle, when you check out emotionally, it triggers her feelings of rejection or abandonment. That withdrawal on your part energizes her as a hailstorm.

As a Hailstorm, when you crowd your partner, it triggers his feelings of being smothered or controlled. That aggression on your part energizes his retreat into the shell.

Mirroring can help you disrupt this pattern.

As a Turtle, you will have to regulate your emotions in order stretch forward and be present with your partner.

As a Hailstorm, you will have to regulate your emotions in order to dial it back and make it safe for your partner to stay present.

Together agree to an “appointment” where you both will take turns, one talking, the other mirroring.

Mirroring is simply repeating back in your own words what you heard your partner say.
Mirroring helps you stay out of your “reactive brain” by turning on your “curious brain”.
Mirroring says to your partner, “You matter, and what you think and feel matters to me.”

Here’s an example of what the whole dialogue process might look like with the Turtle talking and the Hailstorm mirroring.

TURTLE: “When I was asked three times about fixing the front gate, I got really frustrated.”

(Notice how he didn’t use “you” language. As in, “You’re always nagging me.” or “You’re so demanding.” He used non-accusatory “I” statements.)

HAILSTORM: “What I heard you say is that when I asked you three times about fixing the front gate you got really frustrated.”

“Did I get that?” (check to be sure. If not, keep mirroring.)

Then ask,

“It there more about that?”

TURTLE:Yes. I felt like I was being controlled, and I felt like nothing I do is ever good enough, so I just avoided you and did something else for the rest of the day.

HAILSTORM: “What I hear you saying is you felt controlled and like nothing you ever do is good enough. So you didn’t work on the gate, but avoided me and did something else.

“Did I get it?

“Is there more about that?”

Staying curious and making it safe for your partner like this allows him to begin to access what’s going on in his unconscious mind.

Seriously, things you have never seen, and things that even he has not been in touch with, begin to surface when dialogue makes the conversation safe.

Suddenly he’s conscious of something…

TURTLE: “Yes there is more. This reminds me of when I was little and my mother would force me to play the piano for her guests. And even though I would do it, I never felt it was good enough.”

Now you’re both in touch with something not seen before.  You’re seeing the SOURCE of your partner’s reaction.

And as the one mirroring, you naturally begin to “re-image” your partner, to see him, not as someone intentionaly trying to hurt you and abandon you…

… but rather, you see him as someone who, is himself, hurting and scared of being shamed and controlled.

You mean a strong, grown up man like him can feel scared of being shamed and controlled by the woman in his life?

Before the dialogue brought them to this place, I’m confident if you had asked him about his fear, he would have reacted and said something like,

“Who me? I’m not afraid of anything.”

So many people say that at first, but when you use the dialogue process to “check under the hood” you’ll find that his whole life is being driven by fear.

Fear he’s not conscious of.

The dialogue helps uncover the root issue behind your reaction and conflict so that you both understand each other at a deeper level.

This process of seeing your partner’s reality transforms the relationship.

Remember you can’t be curious and critical at the same time. Stay curious and your emotions will stay regulated.

It’s haarrrrrd! But you can do it!

Now go to the next step with the Turtle continuing to talk and the Hailstorm now VALIDATING.

2. Validate the feelings behind the frustration.

After summarizing what your partner said, validate him by saying something like this.

“You make sense. And what make sense about what you said is…”

Finish that sentence so that your partner will feel heard and validated.

It might look like this.

HAILSTORM: “You make sense. And what makes sense is that when you experience that feeling of being controlled, and when you feel like what you do is not good enough, you pull away from me. That makes sense.

“Especially because when you tell me how your mother demanded from you and you never felt good enough, it’s easy to see how you would feel the same thing when I become anxious and demanding.”

Then ask,

“Does that validate your perspective?”

Wait for an affirmative answer.

Validation says to your partner, “Although I may see it differently, you make sense.”

This will help your partner feel safe…

…while, at the same time establish that the two of you are different.

Different needs, different experiences, different ways of dealing with conflict.

This differentiation is an essential process if you two are going to connect.

Now the third step.

3. Empathize with your partner’s fear, anger, pain or joy.

After validating your partner, EMPATHIZE with him by looking past what he did, and focusing on what he felt.

In our example it would go something like this.

HAILSTORM: “I can imagine how you would be angry when you feel controlled and unappreciated, like nothing you do is good enough. That must really hurt and feel bad.”

Then ask,

HAILSTORM: “Is that what you felt?”

Wait for the affirmation and amplification he gives.

Empathizing says to your partner, “I know what it’s like to experience your pain or fear or joy. I’m present with you in that feeling.”

When you have validated and empathized with your partner, then and only then will you be ready for the final step. It won’t work without the transformation that occurs with empathy.

4. Grant your partner’s deep desire buried underneath the frustration.

Now we ask the Turtle to make a “change request”.

Buried underneath every frustration is a desire not expressed.

By MIRRORING, VALIDATING, and EMPATHIZING, your goal is to make it safe enough for your partner to get in touch with the unconscious desire that lies buried beneath the frustration.

And then to form it into a request.

A request that, when granted, will bring HEALING to him, and GROWTH to you.

Healing, because it represents for him what he’s always longed for but never received.

And growth because, in granting it, it will stretch you, and cause you to grow and discover a part of yourself you lost along the way.

Make change requests specific and measurable.

Don’t ask for your partner to do something from now until eternity.

Just ask regarding the “next time” you encounter another potentially frustration experience.

So when the Turtle is invited to make a request, it might look like this:

TURTLE: “The next time you ask me to do something, would you first tell me two or three things I’m already doing that you appreciate?”

Embedded in this kind of change request is a powerful formula for healing (for the Turtle) and growth (for the Hailstorm).

And it sets the whole trajectory of their relationship toward wholeness.

Why don’t you sit down right now with your partner and try this out?

Then reverse roles and have the TURTLE mirror, validate, empathize and grant the HAILSTORM’S request.

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Conflict is a sign you married the right person!

Marriage conflict is not only normal, it opens the door to your healing and wholeness!

Experts tell us that compatibility with your partner is the recipe for boredom. And incompatibility is the recipe for a great relationship!

A transformative relationship! One that is dynamic, powerful, growing and exciting!

Jessica burst into tears as she shared the pain and disappointment she felt after only a few weeks of marriage.

“I thought Ron would be there for me, but now I feel like I’ve married my dad who was never there for me!”

Jessica realized that her new husband was triggering pain from her childhood that she didn’t even know was there.

This happens to some degree with all of us, because recent relationship research shows that…

…couples fight because they bring their childhood into their current relationship.

It’s not something we try to do, or we’re even conscious of, but our childhood adaptations and defenses continue in their “adult versions”, wreaking havoc in our present intimate relationships.

And that’s why we have conflict.

According to relationship expert Harville Hendrix…

“Romantic Love delivers us into the passionate arms of someone who will ultimately trigger the same frustrations we had with our parents, but for the best possible reason! Doing so brings our childhood wounds to the surface so they can be healed.”

I’ve heard pain like Jessica’s expressed in so many different ways by so many frustrated partners, but underneath, the message is always the same:

“This dream I married has become my worst nightmare!”

This happens after the “romantic stage” when a couple enters what we call the “power struggle stage” of the relationship.

It happens sometime between a few weeks and a couple of years after saying “I do.”

In the Romantic Stage you’re high on drugs!

Your brain releases pleasure chemicals called dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin that cause you to fall in love and see your partner through rose-colored glasses.

And the events that occur in the brain when we fall in love have similarities to mental illness :-).

That’s no joke!

And yet romantic love is wonderful, and if we understand it, it’s a foretaste of what is to come – healing, wholeness, mature love, passion and full aliveness.

But soon after a commitment is made guess what happens?

The drugs wear off.

And like Jessica, you feel like, “Oh no. What have I done? I think I’ve made a huge mistake.”

That’s why many Millennials aren’t too keen on marriage. They see what a commitment leads to and they are reticent.

But like most of us they miss the point.

It’s just the power struggle stage folks. 

It’s normal, and though it may be hard to fathom at the moment…

…it’s simply a sign that you’re with the right person!

It’s confirmation that you’re in the best place on the planet to heal, and grow and recover the wholeness you lost along the way.

Not every case is as extreme as Jessica and Ron’s,  but most couples admit that at some point they wonder if they may have married the wrong person.

Tragically, many marriages fail at this point.

Many of us have relationships that failed because we  didn’t know how normal the power struggle is, and  how conflicts provide  such great opportunities to grow.

Some of you understood it, but your partner didn’t and wouldn’t, and because it takes two, the marriage died.

No matter where your are it’s never too late to change your paradigm about conflict and get on the journey of healing, growth and transformation.

Somehow we got the idea that when romantic love fades, it’s time to move on.

Some of us are in love with being in love. So when the the feelings of love leave, so do we.

Others of us are so committed that we’re determined we won’t move on (at least for now), but we’re stuck in the power struggle and we’re wondering if we’re going to be sentenced to a life of unhappiness, or mediocrity in our marriage.

With your permission I’d like to challenge those ideas.

I see couples every week experiencing transformation in their relationship and that shift begins when they start to see their conflicts as opportunities.

You can move through the power struggle stage to mature love and experience healing and wholeness!

And not only that, after Mature Love comes the next stage which I call World Impact where your partnership for healing and growth becomes a positive force that begins to transform your family and the world in which you live.

It’s not too late to turn your conflicts into a partnership of healing and growth.

My online course will give you some powerful relationship tools that can help you build the marriage of your dreams. Click here for more info.

Also to receive encouragement each week simply subscribe to my weekly blogpost below.

Subscribe below to receive my weekly post that will come to your email inbox every Saturday morning! 

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