Friday, October 24, 2008

Blaming Yourself for Your Partner’s Distance

“If I was sexier, slimmer, smarter, wealthier, etc., etc. my partner would remain devoted to me forever.” This sounds unreasonable, yet this is the reasoning many adopt when their partner’s commitment to the marriage becomes uncertain. Why do folks tend to examine their faults and assume unnecessary blame when their partner distances?

At times the distance you experience in your marriage is a signal. It signals that the relationship has become dissatisfying for your spouse and the distance is really a way of communicating a desire for change. If you are willing to examine your contribution to the relationship problems, then you can inject hope that the relationship can improve. A typical example is a husband who becomes too devoted to his job or a wife who becomes consumed with mothering, each neglecting to care for the marriage while they nurture their career and children.

But even when their spouse is involved in an affair, a rejected partner can question what he or she has done (or failed to do) to cause the distance in the marriage. Even when the distancing partner says, “It’s not you, it’s me” the rejected partner will continue to search for something they have done that caused their partner’s distance.

Our instincts make us sensitive to pain, so we can preserve our lives by avoiding the causes of pain in our lives. If we become sick, we consider what we ate that caused our illness. This desire to control our environment in order to avoid pain can lead to self-blame for things outside our control. It feels better to focus on something that is in your control than to accept that your pain cannot be avoided.

Your partner’s commitment to the marriage is not something you earn or can manipulate. Commitment is a choice. Committed spouses choose to work on their marriage.

Avoid holding yourself irrationally responsible for your partner’s lack of commitment to the marriage. Remember that you can contribute to improving your relationship with your partner only if there is a mutual commitment to working on the relationship. It is fine to consider ways that to show that the relationship can be improved, but blaming yourself for your partner’s distance will only lead to diminished self-worth and make you less attractive as a partner.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Using Sex and God to Save Your Marriage

What one thing can you do to save your marriage when you fear losing your partner? This question reflects on your fear and the desperate desire to turn your distancing partner around. After you have recovered from the shock of hearing, “I’m not sure I love you anymore” you are likely to start to grasp for anything that will end the crisis.

Just as a family member may turn to God to bargain for sparing a dying loved one, you may turn to God to bargain for your marriage to survive. Or you may take matters into your own hand to bargain more directly for the survival of your marriage.

Vanessa describes her reaction to her husband’s distancing from the marriage, “I became so focused on saving my marriage that I could think of little else. Even my children took a back seat to the marriage. I sought out every avenue to let my husband know that I wanted to be married to him. I ignored my hurt and worked to be kind, I tried to start conversations and show interest in him, and I pursued sex like never before!”

Unfortunately, Vanessa’s efforts did not and will not work. This is because she is not protecting her self-worth in the relationship. She is saying, “I’ll give everything and I expect nothing in return.” This communicates that you want the relationship at all cost—not a message you want to deliver. You don’t want a relationship in which you are diminished and do not receive in proportion to what you give. You deserve a partner that values you and wants to give to you just as you want to give to him.

You can preserve your marriage and offer a message of self-worth. Turn to God for strength not for magic, you will need strength to weather this storm. You want to preserve yourself as well as your marriage.