Don’t give up on your marriage like this couple almost did. Follow their example and you can save your marriage too.
Have you lost the wonderful feelings of love and intimacy you had at the beginning of your relationship? It’s never too late to reclaim them, but first you need to understand why they are gone.
Camille started counseling with me because Donald, her husband of 14 years, had just expressed to her that he wanted to end their relationship. Camille, terrified of being alone, was panicked. Within a few minutes of speaking with her in a phone session, I understood exactly the underlying cause of their relationship problems.
Camille, coming from a family where she experienced much neglect, had a deep abandonment fear. In her family, Camille had learned to be a caretaker, giving herself up and taking care of everyone else’s feelings and needs. She had learned to put her own feelings in a closet, hoping that if she took care of everyone else, someone would care about her. As an adult, she continued in this pattern, taking care of her husband and children but completely neglecting herself. As a result, she was often very angry at Donald and her children when they didn’t listen to her or approve of her.
People often end up treating us the way we treat ourselves. Because Camille was treating herself as if she was unimportant, Donald and her children also treated her as if she was unimportant. Because Camille didn’t listen to herself, Donald and her children didn’t listen to her. Her fury at Donald and her children for not seeing her or listening to her further alienated them from her. Donald had reached the point where he was no longer willing to be at the other end of Camille’s anger.
Rather than take emotional responsibility for her own well being, Camille was making Donald and her children emotionally responsible for her. She was abandoning herself, just as her parents had abandoned her, and was expecting Donald to give her what she never received from her parents.
Donald was also not taking emotional responsibility. He had spent much of their marriage trying to make Camille happy while ignoring his own feelings and needs. He vacillated between compliance and resistance. When he complied, Camille felt better but he felt terrible from the sense of loss of himself. When he resisted, Camille felt rejected and became enraged. Donald ended up feeling like he was a victim of Camille. He blamed her for his misery and felt he had no alternative but to leave.
I ended up working with both Camille and Donald. Through working with the Inner Bonding process, Camille learned to attend to her abandonment feelings herself, rather than go after Donald or her children when these feelings came up. She learned that she was being self-responsible rather than selfish when she took responsibility for her own feelings of safety, worth, lovability, happiness and joy, rather than making Donald responsible for making her feel safe and worthy. She learned that when she embraced the responsibility of listening to and taking responsibility for her own feelings, she no longer felt abandoned or angry.
Donald learned that he had another option besides compliance or resistance. He learned to take responsibility for his own feelings by telling Camille his truth when she yelled at him or blamed him. Instead of being a victim, he learned to stand up for himself and disengage when Camille was angry. He learned to say, “I don’t like being yelled at, and I don’t like being with you when you are angry at me. Let me know when you are ready to be kind,” and then go do his own Inner Bonding process, or do something fun for himself.
At first, Donald was reluctant to say this to Camille. He didn’t want to hurt her feelings by telling her his truth. He felt his truth was harsh and that he would be unloving if he said these things. However, when he was willing to take the risk of speaking his truth, he found that Camille was actually grateful to receive the truth. Rather than getting angry and hurt, she appreciated his honesty, and told him that he was helping her to learn and grow by telling her his truth.
Donald ended up not leaving. Over a period of a year of practicing Inner Bonding, their relationship completely changed. In fact, he and Camille have achieved a new level of love and intimacy in their relationship, beyond what they had when they first fell in love.
[Margaret Paul Relationship Toolbox]