Creating direction in a marriage is similar to going on a long journey. To get to where you want to go, you need to have a plan that includes directions, supplies and the ability to navigate along the way. You will also have to be prepared for many possible factors that may interfere with your trip, including wind, rain, unpredictable mechanical breakdown and human error. Most importantly you will need a map to guide and help reorient you in case you lose your way.
Many couples who seek my advice are simply lacking the guidance of a relationship road map.
Take Shmuel, 25 and Rivky, 23. They came to speak with me about the lack of excitement and enthusiasm in their marriage. They had only been married for about six months, but were already feeling as if they were traveling down a bumpy road to an unknown destination.
From the outset they looked like the perfect couple – well-dressed, articulate and extremely well-educated. All of the excitement surrounding their engagement period and wedding had just about ended. Now, in their sixth month of marriage, they were feeling unequipped to deal with each other’s emotional needs. They were constantly bickering about the small things – like garbage collection, cooking dinner and cleaning up around the house.
Marriage wasn’t supposed to be so hard. Unable to cope, they started to withdraw from one another, instead of working together to solve their problems. It’s important to note that these were two healthy individuals who had the potential to have a great marriage, but they were lacking a roadmap or emotional GPS that could guide them on how to communicate and gain greater understanding of one another.
This couple’s relationship was clearly going off course. They needed guidance to stay focused on their destination.
To make their job easier, I suggested that they follow an emotional road map based upon what I call “The Four C’s of Relationship Theory: Connection, Control, Communication, and Conflict Resolution.” Together, they provide a clear guide to help couples evaluate where their relationship is going, and where and how to make changes if necessary.
Imagine, for example, if Shmuel and Rivky could read each other’s minds and understand what makes the other happy or sad, or scared and the way each wants to be cared for.
The Four C’s help couples see the bigger picture, and then make a distinction between the areas that demand attention, and those matters that are superficial and should not be the focus of their relationship. For example, you may find yourself arguing over small things like washing the dishes or doing the laundry. You may also be feeling as if your spouse is overly controlling and denies your feelings. Or, you may feel the two of you are drifting apart and aren’t as connected as you used to be. If so, should you try to be more assertive? Or should you learn more about you spouse’s inner world, increase the amount of quality time you spend together, and carefully work through their issues with them? A look at the Four C’s should provide an answer.
The following chart summarizes the principles of Relationship Theory.
The First “C”: Connecting to
Your Spouse’s Inner World
Learning about the total person you are married to is one of the main goals of marriage. As a therapist, I help couples explore both sides of their personalities – their external behavioral characteristics as well as their inner emotional worlds.
It’s important to note, that as human beings, we live in two distinct emotional worlds: an outer world and an inner world. The outer world is merely a façade, a layer which covers up our deeper and unseen emotions. The inner world, however, is the place that holds the key to understanding what makes people tick. Regrettably, many husbands and wives never learn about the complex and delicate issues in the other’s inner world; each relates only to the other’s outer or external side of their personality.
How in touch are you with your spouse’s inner world? Listed below are common negative behaviors that are based upon underlying “inner” world emotions. Take a few moments to evaluate your awareness of these issues.
Negative behavior: threats, attacks, sarcasm, rudeness — How do you perceive your spouse’s behavior? What are their inner feelings?
Negative behavior: defensiveness, shyness, withdrawn, uncommunicative —How do you perceive your spouse’s behavior? What are their inner feelings?
Negative behavior: judging, criticizing, disapproving — How do you perceive your spouse’s behavior? What are their inner feelings?
Here are some possible answers
Negative behavior: threats, attacks, sarcasm, rudeness — How do you perceive your spouse’s behavior? Obnoxious, hostile, aggressive. What are their inner feelings? Hurt, anxious, embarrassed, fearful.
Negative behavior: defensiveness, shyness, withdrawn, uncommunicative —How do you perceive your spouse’s behavior? Rejecting, suspicious, mistrustful, apprehensive.
What are their inner feelings? Angry, resentful, insecure, disappointed.
Negative behavior: judging, criticizing, disapproving — How do you perceive your spouse’s behavior? Resentful, bitter, indignant. What are their inner feelings? Overly self-critical, insecure, angry.
If you’re good at reading between the lines, you’ll notice that outer expressions of anger and sadness often emerge from inner feelings of insecurity or discontent. Think about the stresses in your life that cause you to be cranky, upset or just miserable to be around. Feelings of rejection are often scrambled in our inner world and then dished out at others who just happen to get in our way. All of us have days when we get upset at the people closest to us, but usually it is just that we are upset by other circumstances such as getting yelled at by our boss, receiving a parking ticket or missing the bus. For a marriage to succeed, you need to know when your wife or husband is just having a bad day or if other “inner world” need are not being met.
Let’s take a look at some of the issues that can guide you through your spouse’s inner world. They include:
* Self Esteem
* Love and Friendship
In the following weeks we will explore these five levels and utilize a new test to help you identify your level of “relationship” intelligence with your spouse and ways you can improve your marriage.
About the Author: Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch, MA, is an expert in marriage, pre-marriage education, and working with teenagers at risk. He is the executive director of Shalom Task Force and maintains a private practice in Brooklyn. For an appointment or to watch his free video series on marriage and parenting, visit www.JewishMarriageSupport.com call 646-428-4723 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information visit www.shalomtaskforce.org or call the hotline at 1-888-883-2323.
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