Strong couples can weather any storm, but some things are just insurmountable.
Your true love will fulfill you. Sound familiar? It should, because that's just one of the big marriage-destroying lies promoted by advertising, movies, and fake love stories. Other lies perpetuated include the idea that your partner is there to make you happy and that he/she will always comfort you when you're sad, and heal you when you're hurt. Also; that the "in-love" stage will last forever.
Sadly, the more you need love, the more hurt you've been and the more unfulfilled you are, the more you buy into the lie that it is your partner's job to keep you happy. This lie can kill your marriage. Of course, there are many more lies that can creep into a marriage and cause damage: the lies we tell ourselves, the lies we tell because of shame, and the lies hat hide basic betrayals that make rebuilding trust feel impossible.
The best marriages are created by two people who can truly know themselves and each other. Remember fairy tales? Happy endings come after the beautiful princess has endured cruelty, falsity, and hard work. She has remained strong in her own goodness, bravery and desire for love. The prince has worked to overcome obstacles as well. Relationship experts have come up with different theories and therapies that tell us humans are pretty good at falling in love with people who bring up hidden hurts; of course, not on purpose. Sayings like "You can't heal what you can't feel" suggest that we unconsciously choose someone who will evoke past pain. And, just as your partner unintentionally uncovers your hidden wounds, you're going to uncover his.
Here's an example: ever been with a guy who is nice to everyone else, and totally fell in love with you, too? What happens if he hurts you? You try to tell him that you're hurt, and he says you're accusing him of doing something wrong. Being nice is how he's gotten on in the world, how he's succeeded — everyone else thinks he's great — and here you are, telling him he's not good enough. You protest that that's not what you're telling him, and he gets angry. You get more hurt, and angry because he's not listening, and if you're not careful, what started as a pinprick becomes a volcano. But we've lied to and convinced ourselves that our love should be perfect, so this comes as a total shock.
How can you fight our culture's basic love lie? For one, know that no emotions are bad. In any full life, you will feel them all. Become capable of feeling without blaming. This is crucial to building and experiencing good relationships. Being angry doesn't mean that someone has wronged you. You'll have a better chance of getting to the bottom of things if you can stand your anger long enough to calm down and know what happened.
Become capable of feeling without acting. Feeling desire and excitement about someone other than your spouse doesn't mean you have to have sex with them. You may decide to, but you'll be better off if you hold the charge and excitement enough to decide whether it's worth the betrayal. And make no mistake: this is a betrayal no matter how open your relationship is. Feelings really are like the weather — there's a whole spectrum of them, and some are hard to take. Becoming more capable of knowing and handling the spectrum sets you up for attracting a good mate, and building strong love.
Lies to ourselves also destroy marriages. Sarah, a beautiful 22-year-old, fell in love with Peter's adoration of her. She tried to ignore that she didn't feel as much for him, and the attention she got from men helped her avoid facing her insecurities. She never admitted how much she craved that attention. Three years into their marriage, she had an affair. They patched things up, but six months later she repeated the mistake. After a third fling, they divorced, which is where they were headed before they even reached the alter.
Gage was ashamed of having been a drug addiction. By the time he met Li, he only smoked occasionally. He said he couldn't tell Li because she was against using substances of any kind, even medication, to alter moods. If Gage was really over smoking pot, he probably would have told Li about it in one of the many conversations they had about their pasts. When he started smoking again under stress, and when Li found out, she insisted that he'd never been who she thought he was, and he insisted that she was trying to control him.
Reportedly Johnny Cash's marriage to June Carter survived an infidelity with her sister. A betrayal that big is likely to be outed. Once it's known, it can erode a couples belief in their specialness to each other, as well as destroying any boundary of safety they've built. Sadly few of us learn when we're young how to ride out our strong feelings. Often that's our job in our adult love relationships.
It's a lie that marriage is easy. It's true that the work can be worthwhile — as fairy tale princesses and princes always knew. How will you bring truth, honesty and bravery into your marriage?
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