By Dr. David B. Hawkins, Crosswalk.com
I am forever learning from my clients. This, of course, is not why I do the work I do, but it is clearly one of the side benefits.
Joe came for his Personal Intensive—a two-day personal therapy experience—kicking and screaming. He did not want to be here. A 30-year-old self-made millionaire, Joe believed he knew all he needed to about himself and his mate. He knew so much about business and making money that everything he touched seemed to turn to gold. Everything, that is, except his marriage.
“You know I wouldn’t be here if Cynthia hadn’t left me?”
“Yes, Joe,” I said. “That is not hard to see. You’re angry about being here and probably angrier that she left you.”
“Actually,” he continued, firmly tapping the edge of his chair, “if she hadn’t left me I might have left her. She’s not as put together as you seem to think.”
“Why do you say that?” I asked.
“She has got everybody fooled, except me,” he said with a surly tone. “While I wouldn’t have chosen the separation, maybe it’s a good thing. She might learn that she has made one huge mistake.”
“Maybe so, Joe,” I said. “In the meantime, why don’t we talk about what has got you so angry?”
“I don’t think I’m that angry,” he said. “She just pushes me around and I can’t take it any more. I’m glad we’re separated.”
His words seemed hollow to me. Clearly he was sad about the separation, but refused to allow those feelings to come to the surface.
We spent much of that day talking about Joe and what had gotten him to the point where he was difficult to live with. We reviewed the letter his wife had sent ahead, describing his fiery temper, his passive-aggressive tendencies and his sarcastic, biting words.
What unfolded during our work, however, was not only Joe’s angry disposition, but that he felt unprotected by his wife. We discovered how his passivity led to him becoming irritable and angry, culminating in him exploding periodically. He completely lacked boundaries and felt repeatedly violated by his wife, through no real fault of hers. He had not spent the time and effort necessary to understand himself, value himself and ultimately protect himself. Subsequently, he was unable to ask for what he needed and then resented his wife for not meeting his legitimate needs.
Solomon talks about this pattern of behavior: “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)
Solomon’s counsel is clear: we must understand ourselves, confess, renounce our sins, and turn from them. Joe had significant work to do in understanding the origins of his resentment, setting clear boundaries and becoming a healthy, functioning person. As he cared for himself better, he would be able to inform his wife of his needs and then be in a much better position to meet her needs.
We specifically went through the following process, which I recommend for you as well:
First, go through a process of understanding your core values. Joe had to go through a process whereby he understood what was important to him. What were the activities that made him feel alive? Who had God created him to be? How was he called to serve the Kingdom? These questions helped him learn what was important and how he was not living an authentic life.
Second, celebrate your core values. Joe had not been clear about his core values and certainly had not been celebrating them. He had not been clear within himself and thus could not be clear with his mate. She could not read his mind and wasn’t aware of violating his values.
Third, translate your core values into core convictions. Core values must become core convictions—something we stand for. These convictions lead us to look to others to tell them, clearly but compassionately, what is important to us. We share from our heart and speak passionately about these core convictions.
Fourth, set healthy boundaries regarding those core convictions. It is up to each of us to be clear about our core values and to set healthy boundaries around them. Joe, for instance, valued musical ministry in his church. He shared with his wife that serving the church in this capacity was vitally important to him and asked her to help him create spaces in their lives for this to happen.
Fifth, inform your mate of your core values and listen to their core values/convictions. We must inform others of our core values and be fully prepared to listen to their core values. Our core values and convictions never trump out mate’s core values. Rather, as we share from our hearts our mate will likely be influenced to help us live out our values.
Finally, collaborate with each other for how you will support the other’s values and changes you must each make to live vibrantly together. Ultimately, the marriage dance is much more exciting when we are each living vitally and vibrantly. As we are healthy and alive we are more capable of helping our mate be vibrant and alive as well.
Do you know what makes you feel alive? Are you living with clear convictions and have you shared them with your mate? When we celebrate ourselves we are more likely to celebrate our mate as well. It can be a very exciting journey.
We’d love to hear from you. What has worked in your marriage to restore connection? Please send responses to me at [email protected] and also read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website. You’ll find videos and podcasts on emotionally destructive marriages, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage.
Dr. David Hawkins, MBA, MSW, MA, PhD, is a clinical psychologist who has helped bring healing to thousands of marriages and individuals since he began his work in 1976. Dr. Hawkins is passionate about working with couples in crisis and offering them ways of healing their wounds and finding their way back to being passionately in love with each other.
Over the past ten years, Dr. Hawkins has become a leader in the field of treatment for narcissism and emotional abuse within relationships. He has developed several programs for treatment of men dealing with these issues and the women who love them. Dr. Hawkins is also a speaker & trainer for the American Association of Christian Counselors and writes for Crosswalk.com, CBN.org, and iBelieve.com. He is a weekly guest on Moody Radio and Faith Radio and is a best-selling author of over thirty books.