The ideal purpose of marriage and family is to be your true self, to grow, to be loved, and accepted, unconditionally. Family can be a place to learn the purpose and place for forgiveness, mistakes, apologies, and personal needs being met. Though no family is perfect, everyone is capable of such love…even when love is tainted with shame and great fears of abandonment. If the love in your heart is so far removed and hurt, it is difficult to love others in such an unconditional way. Unconditional love can change the landscape of your life. To no longer fear pain, is to embrace the reality that we all make mistakes, no one is perfect, and nothing is owed to us. We are each capable of disappointing and hurting one another. Healthy expectations are normal, but how do you react when your expectations aren’t met?
Do you find it difficult to express how you feel with your significant other? Are there moments where you hold back sharing your opinion or experience? Is it due to fear of the other person’s reaction? The other person’s opinion or reaction to what you shared? This is often an issue that shows up in couples counseling, family counseling, and individual therapy.
Adjusting how you express yourself is certainly mature and wise in many social situations. But when couples come to me for therapy, they’re looking to be heard and understood. The lack of true, intimate communication is due to both people adjusting themselves so much, that they have abandoned who they are out of fear. Lack of honest communication has little to do with wisdom and maturity and more to do with fear. Resentment after years of not being heard and misunderstood can lead to broken heartedness. But are you contributing to your own lack of being known due to codependency or counter dependency?
Yes, you can be contributing to the lack of marital intimacy by the very nature of how you react or don’t react to the situations in your life. Not being yourself only creates greater distance between you and others around you. Do you do the following in your marriage or family?
Define your worth based on other people’s reactions
Express a harmonious opinion as long as it agrees with others
Seek approval from others through tasks or behaviors
Change what you might share because of fear of others’ reactions
Hide the need for affirmation
Pretend you do not need others
Feel the need to control
Hypercritically speak to others
Hide your anger until you are about to explode
Many of these characteristics can be found among counter and codependent people. Both personality styles share a “dependency” that is abandoning to the self. Enmeshment is taking responsibility for another person’s reactions and feelings preemptively, in order to control and manipulate. It is not diabolical. It is simply how internal anxiety and fear is managed. Enmeshing causes a person to cross lines and boundaries with others. Enmeshment does not allow a person to be themselves. Enmeshing says “My feeling is not ok, because someone will shame me for it.” “My feeling is not ok, because I will be unloved.”
If you need to change your relationship then change yourself first. Self differentiation is the key. You have the power to have a healthy relationship. May 2015 be a year of peace, love, and harmony!