07 March 2015

Death By A Thousand Cuts: Can You Avoid Divorce?

So often the end of a love affair is death by a thousand cuts, 
so often its survival is life by a thousand stitches.  
~ Robert Brault

In 2015, I’m participating in Jeff Goins’ My 500 Words Challenge: writing at least 500 words a day for a year!  So dearest blog, although I’ve neglected you of late, I have never ceased writing!  YTD Word Count: 36,171

ometimes, the first step in making a positive change, is knowing what not to do.

Like most people, I come from a dysfunctional family, and in order to begin the healing process, I needed to see and acknowledge two fundamental truths:

1. Not all families live the way we did.
2. Without outside help, I could not learn new ways of living.

Brittany Wong’s article in the Huffington Post on Friday seems to agree.

She talked to divorce experts (including one divorcee) and came away with a list of eleven behaviours that can lead to the death of a marriage.  Not surprisingly, many of these “marriage mistakes” were familiar to me, as I’ve watched my parents make them over and over.  (The fact that they are still married is a miracle and a discussion for a separate post.)

Although Wong doesn’t go into detail here, knowing these eleven toxic behaviours and examining your own relationship is the first step to making a change that might save your marriage or prevent it from souring.

Each of the eleven mistakes listed can be discussed and unpacked on a deeper level.  However, for this post, I wanted to talk a little more about Laura Wasser’s (the divorce lawyer), advice on unrealistic expectations ~ something all relationships suffer from at one time or another. 

As a close friend and psychologist put it, “the higher the expectation, the greater the disappointment. Part of having realistic expectations is unconditional acceptance.  Wasser touches on this when she says, “Failure to accept the person you are married to, yourself or the relationship for what it really is” is a less apparent behavior that she has seen lead to divorce.

What Unconditional Acceptance Is and Is Not
Unconditional acceptance does not mean I accept
·        Comments that belittle my intelligence, my feelings, my opinions, or my physical appearance
·        Being treated as less equal
·        Drug or alcohol abuse or a po*n or sex addiction that goes without treatment
·        Comments that belittle my friends and/or encourage me to get rid of them
·        Attempts to control or dictate what I eat, what I wear, what I say, where I go, etc.
·        Being blamed for everything wrong that happens to you

This is not an exhaustive list, but they are the main red flags that indicate an unhealthy relationship.  Not all people will exhibit every single trait, but if they do, you are not just in an unhealthy relationship - you are in an abusive one.
© Le Moal Olivier

Unconditional acceptance does mean I accept
·        Your different personality type
·        Your different love languages
·        Your different, but equally valid, needs
·        Your right to your opinions, even if I disagree with them
·        Your right to have space and alone time
·        Your right to have friends outside of our family

So what does this look like in real life?  Something like this:

Jane comes home from a stressful job where she’s had to be “on” all day.  She’s looking forward to some quiet time, being with James, holding each other and just taking it easy.   

All day, James has been anticipating Jane’s joyful reaction to the news that he was just named manager of an exciting new project at work – with a raise!  This means he can buy her a new tablet to replace her old laptop.  She’s going to love it!

James’ chatter and constant walking in and out of the kitchen and the living room starts to get on Jane’s already strained nerves; plus, all that walking and talking means hugging is impossible.  Jane feels hurt and invalidated that he isn’t just chilling next to her, holding her and letting her decompress.

Equally hurt and confused by Jane’s silence and lack of reaction to his gift, James’ enthusiasm deflates and his resentment grows. Why isn’t she listening to him and telling him how proud she is that his boss trusts him enough to take the lead on this incredible project!?

“…if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree,
it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."
Albert Einstein

Jane is an Introvert – she recharges her energy by being alone and silent, although she doesn’t mind recharging with James (usually). Her love languages are Presence and Physical Affection.

James is an Extrovert – he recharges his energy by being around people and talking.  His love languages are Words of Affirmation and Gift Giving.

Sadly, neither Jane and James know that there are different love languages and at least one of them dismisses the importance of knowing and understanding personality types.  But the longer they live in ignorance, the more invalidated and valued each will feel in the relationships  and the more resentment and hurt will grow.

This story doesn’t explore contributing factors like psychological wounds, family history, past abuse, needs and desires, etc.  But it does illustrate what I’m talking about when it comes to unconditional acceptance in regards to two vital areas: how we recharge and how we express love.  
The great thing is, today we have more tools to help wounded and dying relationships and they apply not just to spouses, but to any relationship.  

We just have to be open and willing to learn, to change, and to work a little harder at understanding each other.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

What are some other ways to keep a marriage healthy?

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