I once coached a couple who were both very successful professionally—she was a neurologist and he was in charge of city planning in the medium sized city where they lived. They had both been clear what they wanted and made it happen in most areas of life—they had bought a home they loved, they had 3 wonderful children and had achieved multiple professional successes.
This couple was also clear on their financial goals and had paid off school loans along with their mortgage and been very deliberate about carefully making choices–together.
When it came to their 21 year marriage and the intimacy they shared, it was very different.
They loved one another deeply and enjoyed the life they had built together—no question about it. But there were many aspects of their marriage that were complicated, sometimes downright painful.
Mostly, they wouldn’t have called it painful—“confusing,” “frustrating,” or “disappointing” were more likely the words she would have used. (He wouldn’t have used any.) Because, like most couples, they had more pride about their marriage and were not comfortable saying that they were actually unhappy in their marriage.
Not when everything was basically good, and it was so much better than most couples they knew.
However, they also knew they could be a lot happier than they were—that was the subtle, complicated, and very important truth.
When it came down to it, and each of them courageously considered the reality, neither he nor she felt seen or heard except on a fairly superficial level.
When he had a challenge at work, he tended not to share it because he couldn’t count on his wife being totally supportive and on his side. So telling her would have him feel even worse…
When she didn’t feel honored as a woman in the ways she yearned for, she didn’t really know what to say about it. She wasn’t exactly mad at him, because she knew he was doing his best. But she really wished he would look at her, and talk to her, and listen to her in a way that had her feel alive and cherished.
I wasn’t surprised to hear that they hadn’t had sex in 6 months. Often, after a month or two passes, it gets harder and harder to make love again.
When I met them, she said to me, “You know, we’ve been married for 21 years and I thought we would have figured it out by now.”
I knew exactly what she meant. Do you?
Marriage is an institution so many participate in. Yet how many do it really well—as well as you might do your job, raise your children or achieve excellence in other areas…
This is exactly why I have written Uncompromising Intimacy and why I have designed the Conscious Partnership Program—to give couples a Blueprint for Conscious Partnership and to share the 6 essential qualities required to create a fantastic relationship. THIS is what results in the feeling that you have in fact “figured it out”.
What about you? Have you “figured it out”? Do you want some guidance? Press reply and let’s have a conversation.
With pleasure and purpose,
Alexandra Stockwell, M.D. on Sunny in Seattle will discuss her new book, Uncompromising Intimacy. Tune in to learn how to turn your unfulfilling marriage or relationship into a deeply satisfying, passionate partnership.
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN
Raising children is sometimes triggering— in very specific ways. I first learned this when our oldest was 6 years old.
At the time, my marriage starting to feel weird. I couldn’t find another word to explain it. I knew what it felt like to experience tension in our marriage, or numbness and disconnect. This wasn’t that.
I wasn’t actually sure what it was, however, I knew something was off. We felt oddly disconnected… even as everything seemed fine.
At the time I was seeing a therapist. I tried to describe to her what was happening. She responded by asking the age my husband was when his parents divorced.
He was 6 years old, just like our daughter.
I shared this awareness with my husband, and the ill-defined fog between us immediately lifted.
In its wake was his clarity, and his pain. Now he understood, as he looked at our daughter, why he felt devastated. He was looking at her and picturing his own experience when he was her age. The contrast between her joyful innocence and carefree ways, and what he was experiencing at 6, was challenging for him to comprehend. However, in this noticing, he was able to focus on healing his deep inner wounds. Meanwhile, our relationship again felt strong, solid and comforting.
We have 4 children. With 3 of them, as each one turned 6, something like this happened. After the first one, I recognized it a lot sooner, and he promptly accepted the invitation for deeper awareness and healing. It wasn’t disorienting after the first time.
Having such an experience alerted us to how multidimensional family life is—there is always far more happening than meets the eye!
And, 24 years in, we embrace it. We celebrate it!
Because every time something like this happens, we get to clear out old conditioning and become more alive and more present, to ourselves and one another. This is one of the purposes of intimate relating—it’s an invitation for old wounds to be painful again, in order to get our attention and in the process, inspire us to heal.
- Have you noticed something similar in your relationship?
- Are there overt patterns you are aware of, that result from a past experience which now strongly influences the present?
- Are you aware how something in the present triggers an experience from the past?
I would love to know your thoughts on this. Please press reply, and let’s dialogue about it.
With pleasure and purpose,
When I began my personal growth journey, the revelations were massive.
Self-awareness opened me to a whole new world. The breakthroughs and transformations were profound! And dramatic.
Decades later, the noticing is much more subtle, and the whole process feels a bit like espionage of the soul. Instead of discovering I had walked into an unconscious wall when I realize how blocked I have been, I now get a whiff of something and then carefully bring my attention to it, to see what I can find.
I recently had such an experience.
There are many experiences I have which I attribute to my husband’s actions. Many of them are truly wonderful, but not all of them…
So when someone asked me two weeks ago whether I ever blame him for my experience, I thought for a second. As someone who has done a great deal of work on myself and coach others to do the same, I know better than to blame someone else for my experience. Therefore, my first response was, “No, I don’t blame him—that’s not something I do.”
However, moments later I realized that, while I avoid using the word “blame”, I do attribute things to other people, and to my husband in particular. Once I was honest with myself in this way, I realized that, giving attribution was a sneaky way to avoid feeling blame. I felt morally superior because I wasn’t stooping so low and blaming him. But actually making him the cause of my experience was the same thing as blaming him for it, but in much prettier packaging.
When I become aware of something of this sort within me, I do not turn away from it. I don’t try to tell myself it’s not true. I don’t attempt to excise it from my system. And I don’t conclude that I am a bad person. Not at all—instead I lean in and make friends with the part of myself which I have been previously avoiding.
I do this because every time I do, I discover important things about who I am. Leaning in inevitably results in my finding a nugget of truth.
And once I claim that truth, or honor that need, the offending behavior tends to drop away.
In other words, I know that qualities and behaviors I don’t like are covering up something important and when I embrace that important thing, those behaviors will drop away.
How did I put that into practice with this, when I realized that I do blame my husband for what I experience?
First of all, any time I was aware of believing that my reaction, my emotions, my experience were the result of something my husband said or did, I stopped and asked myself if I was blaming him for it.
To my surprise, the answer was YES pretty much every time I asked myself this question!!!
Second of all, having already asked my husband if he wanted me to tell him when this was happening and hearing his yes, I let him know when I blame him for something. Typically I say it somewhat flirtatiously or coyly. Occasionally it’s quite vulnerable. And never do I actually say it in a way that blames him. Because the point of my communication is to tell him about my awareness; it’s not actually about blaming him for anything when I share in this way.
What have I learned? I have learned that even after years of learning to take responsibility for the quality of my relationship, and the experiences of my life, I still have been subtly blaming my husband for times I feel dissatisfied.
The next step is to be compassionate towards myself, and to look at the patterns in play:
- When do I tend to feel that way?
- What am I thinking or feeling when I blame him?
- Once I tell him I was blaming him, what is the emotion right underneath? (It’s usually internal spaciousness and joy.)
This is still a work in progress, so I will let you know what else I discover.
What about you?
What are you newly aware of in yourself, and in your relationship?
And what are you doing to shift it?
Press reply. I would love to know.
With pleasure and purpose,
“Negative self-talk is the single biggest limitation in how happy you are and how much you achieve in life.”
Check out this article where Alexandra explains negative self talk and how to overcome the negative chatter in your mind!