Think Marriage Can Save You? Think Again

runaway bride

The Truth About Using Relationships To 'Fix' Yourself...

I was 21 when I entered into my first marriage. Well, 21 chronologically, 15 emotionally — if that. I was desperate to prove that I was lovable — to myself and to the world — and what better proof than marriage? So after years of being the girl that no one asked to the dance, I said yes to the first man dumb enough to propose. I was as ill prepared for marriage as I was to build my own rocket and fly it to the moon.

That marriage was, of course, short lived and ended in the early 70's just as the women's rights movement and the sexual revolution were in full swing. I had society's permission to openly look for love in all the wrong places. And, oh boy, did I!

The 70's was a decade about letting it all hang out. It also saw the beginning of the higher consciousness movement when we all flocked to Erhard Sensitivity Training where, in one short weekend and for a fairly substantial fee, we could solve our problems, forgive our parents for screwing us up, and learn the skills needed to live happily ever after. A byproduct of all that newly acquired higher consciousness was an abundance of bad poetry, most of which made sense only when you were high. I had books full of the stuff and I remember none of it except this one: "My needs are such that I destroy the paths by which they may be fulfilled." I can't remember the author or I would give credit where credit is due. That one not only stuck with me, it nagged at me.

You see, I desperately needed to be loved, but in marrying for the wrong reason and in looking for love in all the wrong places, I succeeded only in reaffirming my fundamental belief that I was unlovable. One night stands, married men, and relationships with losers led to the evaporation of what little self-esteem I had and destroyed the path by which I would find the love I so desperately wanted: self-love.

Human beings are weirdly complex. We like being right so much that we will be "right" to our own detriment. We not only behave in ways that prove ourselves right — even if that behavior is destructive — we stubbornly believe our own thoughts. In Happy for No Reason, author Marci Shimoff teaches that we have about 60,000 thoughts a day. 57,000 are the same thoughts we have every day, and 45,000 of those daily thoughts are negative. Wow! Is it any wonder that I was on a downhill self-esteem spiral? I not only believed I was unlovable, I reinforced that belief by 

  1. repeating it over and again, and
  2. engaging in behavior that proved myself right.

I destroyed the path by which my need could be fulfilled.

As I ultimately learned, the path to a happy life and a happy marriage is a solid and healthy personal relationship with yourself. Marriage is not for the immature, low self-esteem and self-confidence rookies. Or for people who have yet to discover self-love by dealing with their crap: limiting beliefs, childhood wounds, habits and behaviors that don't serve you.

We too often enter into marriage with the hope that our spouse, in loving us, will fix whatever is broken. As for me, marriage was the escape from a parental home in which I felt unwanted and unloved. When marriage failed to prove my lovability to the person who most needed persuading — myself — I did everything wrong until finally, I hit rock bottom and had no choice but to turn myself around. It's not easy to rid yourself of limiting beliefs, to overcome childhood wounds, and to change habits and behaviors that don't serve you, but it's necessary to have a happy life and, if you want it, a happy marriage.

Marriage is not a pill that will fix you. Only you can do that. So if you hope for a happy marriage, or if you are now in an unhappy marriage, then be brutally honest with and about yourself. Figure out what's not working for you and needs to change. Then do it. And because it's not easy, never ever be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help is an act of self-love, the first step in your journey to a happy life and a happy marriage.

Shela Dean is a relationship coach, speaker and bestselling author, who is known for her practical, down-to-earth, meat-and-potatoes, been-there-done-that, style. Check out her website or give her a call at 804.986.4342.