Building A Healthy Marriage: Where are you? (Part 3 of 4)

The invitation in marriage is to learn how you are feeling and to share with your spouse where you are relationally. The hope is for each spouse is to stop hiding from each other and to be open and honest each day of how you are and where you are.

Two places relationally where spouses can hide is in a performance place or a feeling good place. The two can go together and both have an effect on how you do relate to your spouse. Oftentimes, spouses travel relationally back and forth between these two places due to how they react to one another.

Let’s say you come home from work and you decide to wash the dishes. Both of you have been busy with work, parenting, and other responsibilities. You do your best to wash them and present a clean kitchen. But then your spouse comes home, and notices you have done the dishes. But he or she say’s to you, “Honey, once again, you did not do them right!” Your spouse points out where you went wrong in your washing of the dishes and tries to correct, criticize or instruct you that you did not do it according to their ways. You then defend yourself and soon the two of you are off having an argument or fight. The spouse who did the dishes again starts to feel that how they do chores around the house leads to them feeling that what they do, is not good enough.

When spouses put pressure and high expectations on one another, the marriages switches from a love relationship to a performance relationship. This type of performance happens when one spouse has the effect of making you feel bad or guilty in how you do something is not good enough. The one accusing you of not washing the dishes correctly is out to teach you how to do it their way, the right way, or the correct way. The spouse who has done the dishes walks away from this encounter feeling they are not good enough.

As a result, spouse start to avoid their spouse and find places or activities that make them feel good. So they start to turn to activities in which they can feel better: drinking friends, flirting with others, a new car, new clothes, new toys, maybe even an affair. The goal is to move from isolation and loneliness, from feeling they can’t do anything right and feel bad, to a place in which they feel good.

When the marriage arena leads to two spouses hiding or avoiding each other, due to each of them wanting to be alone and isolated, or wanting to escape the critical or correcting spouse, then this is when finding happiness or feeling good becomes the motive. But usually these strategies and these experiences are only temporary. Sure, having drinks with your friends is fun, or having an affair is fun and helps you feel good, or turning to food to eat or shopping for clothes can be fun. But they don’t last as they are temporary fixes for only a short period of time. They may help you get away from your critical spouse and help you feel good, but usually you keep on chasing feeling good at the expense of avoiding your spouse. And that is not good.

Thanks for reading.

Phillip Kiehl, LMFT #42351
Author of “Creating the Healthy Marriage You Want: Stop Accusing & Start Accepting One Another.”