On Your Stuff: Saving Your Marriage From Your Emotional Issues Pt. 1

This is part 2 of a 2-part feature on emotional issues. These articles are meant to be a stepping stone to healing, but are by no means a cure-all. It is best to seek professional help to guide you on your journey.

In the first installment, we talked in general terms about becoming aware of emotional issues/themes and how they can negatively affect our thoughts and behaviors. Now it’s time to put a face and name on those themes.

A theme is a unifying or dominant idea, an overarching concept that connects and defines items in a group. In this case, the group is comprised of life events, specifically those that have greatly impacted you and shaped your worldview.

There is no finite list of emotional themes, but there are certain ones that show up frequently. Let’s examine them, shall we?

Common Emotional Themes

  • Abandonment: Perhaps the most popular of all emotional themes, abandonment is the feeling of being unfairly left behind or discarded. This theme could be rooted in a physical abandonment (someone leaving), but it can also refer to perceived abandonment that may have nothing to do with physical absence. If this is one of your primary themes, you may find that you rush into relationships or expect too much too fast (or just too much in general), which, in turn, may run the person off. Your feeling of abandonment is then itensified and the cycle continues.
  • Loss: Loss may seem very similar to abandonment, but the main difference is that loss isn’t intentional. It involves someone or something
  • Over Responsibility
  • Inferiority
  • Violation

 

~Nadirah Angail

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6 Dos and Donts of Discussing Your Marriage With Others

Sometimes, you can’t contain it. Sometimes, the problem seems so big and the emotional response is so great that you just have to call a friend and let them know about the grand showdown that just occurred between you and your husband.

They don’t always help, these conversations, but we have them because they make us feel good. We like the release we experience when recounting the story, being sure to highlight all our good points and all his bad ones. We like the comfort we get from our friends who reassure us that he is the one with the problem (not us).

We don’t always like, however, the repercussions of these conversations, which have a way of increasing the divide between already-feuding couples. For that reason, we must be cautious.

There is nothing wrong with seeking marital advice or getting another perspective on an issue, but we must never forget our duties to our spouses. Husbands and wives should be garments for each other. We must guard each other’s feelings and reputations in the same way we’d guard our own. That doesn’t change just because we’re upset. Consider the following when discussing your relationship with others.

DO calm down first

If you’re still at a 10, it’s better to wait until you’ve calmed down to approach another person about your problems. When you’re very upset, your filters can be faulty and you may say something you either didn’t mean or didn’t mean to share.

DO have an agenda

The point of the conversation should not be to merely vent, but to gain some insight into a particular area your having trouble with. Perhaps ask how they communicate with a person who shuts down when upset or ask if they have any tips on keeping your cool in a highly emotional argument. Whatever you ask or say, it should be specific and well thought out. Otherwise, you may end up spending an hour or so merely entertaining someone else with the intimate details of marriage.

DO choose wisely: You shouldn’t talk to everyone about your problems. In fact, you shouldn’t talk to most people about them, friend or not. You have to choose someone who will be an advocate for your marriage, meaning they will be slow to encourage divorce and quick to point out your spouse’s positive qualities. This person should also be levelheaded and married, preferably.

DON’T talk to someone who will spread your business

Some people just can’t keep their mouth shut. Those are the types of people you shouldn’t talk to about your marriage. Remember, if they will tell you someone else’s business, they will certainly tell your business to someone else (and they probably won’t even tell it correctly).

DON’T say anything that would hurt or embarrass your spouse

This one can be tricky because sometimes the things you really need to discuss can be the ones your spouse would never approve of you sharing. You’ll have to use your own discretion. The main thing to remember is that you are to guard his reputation. Certain issues, like physical or drug abuse, should be shared with someone trustworthy, regardless of if it will be upsetting or not. (Note: In the case of any type of abuse, especially physical, your safety will always have to be taken into account, so you may need to strategize before you tell someone.) Other issues, like sexual ones or anything else of very private nature, can be addressed by reading books and utilizing anonymous online forums. People are often surprised to find there are tons of helpful people online who are experiencing similar circumstances.

DON’T make it a habit of only discussing your spouse’s shortcomings

If the only time you discuss your husband is when he is driving you insane, even the most nonjudgmental person may begin to see him in a tainted light. They may find themselves thinking, “Wow, sounds like she married a real jerk,” when the truth is that he only seems that way because of the image you created. Even though you’re upset in the moment, you know he is a wonderful man, but the person you’re confiding in may not.

Even when we don’t feel like it, we must cherish our marriages and our spouses by protecting them from the curious ears of those whose words have no value.

Are You Comfortable Being Unhappy in Your Marriage?

comfortable being unhappyLet’s be real: sometimes, you just want to be mad.

You just want to sit up in your funk and wallow. You ain’t thinking about working it out;  you don’t want to give it another try; you don’t even want to hear a apology. You’re just hot. And you know what, you kinda like it.

Come on, admit it. (Nobody’s looking and you know I won’t tell.) Just admit how it sometimes feels good to stew in your anger. I can admit it, but I’m still wondering why. What makes a person want to stay angry? What’s up with that? Ego: that’s what’s up. Our egos get a couple hundred strokes every time we have a pity party. We tell ourselves grand stories about how we’ve been wronged and why we have the right to be mad, the right to wear a scowl, the right to make every cell vibrate with negative, weakening energy.  Sure, its your right, but is that really what you want?

Nope.

I went ahead and answered that for you because I already know the deal: It’s not that you want to be unhappy. It’s that you’re comfortable there and scared of the unknown.

Change is hard… and scary

If I had a dime for every time I tried to permanently change something about myself and failed, I’ll have a lot of money. Change is easy to want and hard to implement. It takes planning and determination. It takes a willingness to go at it again, and again, and again, and again. But, most importantly, it takes a deliberate and forceful silencing of the inner voices.

Those voices, man… I could write an entire post about destructive inner voices (and I probably will at some point). They’re just so convincing. I mean, they will really have you listening to them, as if their words are finite and final, as if they aren’t hollow, made of flimsy doubt and fear.

It’s those voices that make you comfortable. They tell you nothing will ever change, and you believe them. They tell you your marriage has run its course, and you believe them. They tell you happiness exists only outside your relationship and you will never achieve it from within, and you believe them. So why bother? Sure, you’ll be cordial and go through the motions, but real effort? Why bother?

And this is the thinking that traps and binds.

You do as little as possible just to get by. You make small gestures in the name of “starting over,” but you don’t really believe, and so you don’t really try.  After all, why beat a dead horse? Why support a dying cause? Your energy would be much better spent on something that could actually make you happy, wouldn’t it?

And that’s the scary part: the idea that you could genuinely put forth real effort and still not be happy, still not accomplish anything, still feel rejected, still feel alone. Feeling like a failure when you’ve given up is doable, but having that same feeling when you’ve poured yourself into something wholeheartedly, that seems unbearable.  And so we dampen our efforts and get comfortable in the dark, too scared to travel into the blinding light of the uncertain.  We settle down in our misery and become martyrs to fear–as if there were no other choice.

Abandon your life of fear and LIVE

But alas, there are choices! If only we’d open our eyes and allow ourselves to see them. How many other scary things have you faced and conquered? Maybe it was a scary movie at 8, or a roller coaster at 12, or the driving exam at 16, or a job interview at 21 or the decision to enliven your marriage that you’re facing right now.  Because that’s really what it is: the decision to add life back into your marriage. Yes, it is risky–your spouse may not receive your efforts–but to stay where you are would be a disservice to yourself, your children (if you have any), and the commitment you made before God.

When you allow yourself to live in anger, the whole family suffers. Sure, the marriage takes a hit, but you, on an individual level, take a major blow as well. And of course that trickles down to the kids. Of course that trickles down to your parents, your siblings, your friends and co-workers. Everyone in your intimate circle feels the aftershock of your choice.

Your own body will rise up in protest because of the disharmony you created. (Read: headaches, physical illness, anxiety, etc.) Yes, I said, “you created.” You’ve got to own it. If anything is to change (and I hope by now you’ve decided it should), you have to take ownership. This isn’t about absolving your spouse of any blame. It is about acknowledging that you were powerful enough to take part in this undoing, and so have the power to mend and rebuild.

This is your life. Yours. No one else can experience it for you, so let NO one and NO thing force you into decisions you’ll regret. And this whole “put my marriage on auto pilot” thing you got going, you will regret that. Of this, I am certain.

If you’re ready to leave your comfort zone and try something that can get you moving in the right direction, take the 365 Marriage Oath.

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The Problem With Having a Love of Your Life

love of my lifeYears ago, I heard comedian Steve Harvey talking about how women often use the phrase “love of my life” to refer to men who in no way deserve the title. I completely agree, so much so that his words stuck with me all these years and inspired this post. In general, there is nothing wrong with having a “love of your life,” but you have to be careful with whom you allow to fill that space.

“But you can’t choose the love of your life. It just happens.” That’s what you were thinking, weren’t you? This is how we’ve been conditioned, to be passive participants in our heart’s affairs, to be mere spectators that can only watch, not do. It is true that you can feel more connected to one person than you do others, but that isn’t a good enough reason for you to stay connected to a man who doesn’t deserve you. “Love of my life” is a term we choose to apply to someone.  And too often, we choose to apply it to those with whom we have had the most turbulent and unhealthy relationships.

“Girl, I know he’s no good for me, but he’s the love of my life… I always go back.”

“I would leave, but he’s the love of my life. You know how that goes…”

“This is crazy! I can’t get over him! He’s the love of my life.”

You’ve probably heard (or spoken) these phrases before. It seems “love of my life” has become synonymous with “the person I allow to continually hurt me.” It doesn’t matter how many years you have invested, how intertwined you feel your hearts have become, or how drop-dead gorgeous he may be. If he has proven, time and time again, that he is NOT able to treat you how you want to be treated and NOT able to provide you with the mental and emotional stimulation you need, he has no business being called the love of your life (or any other term of endearment you can think of). It really is that simple.

We make it complicated when we listen to the damaged parts of ourselves that have somehow become addicted to the diseased dynamics of these relationships. “Yes, he cheats on me, but we have such a strong connection.” “True, he’s not really what I want in a husband, but it’s been 5 years and I really love him.” In the words of Tina Turner, what’s love got to do with it? We have an obligation to ourselves to be the best person possible and to surround ourselves with others who will help us in that pursuit. A good man will do that.

Unfortunately, a lot of the men we call the “loves of our lives” aren’t doing that. In fact, they’re doing the exact opposite. They sidetrack and discourage us from reaching our better selves by occupying our time and thoughts with all sorts of *pauses to think of a fitting word* foolishness.

The love of your life should be the person who has had the best affect on you, the person that helped you reach a new level of understanding and happiness, the person   who has been a true asset in your life. Don’t use the term as an excuse to go back to a loser. Don’t let it be the nail in the coffin that seals your fate as an unhappy woman.

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To Married Men, From Wives Everywhere: An Open Letter about Housework

to husbands everwhereDisclaimer: I am aware of (and thankful for) the fact that this doesn’t apply to all men.

Dear Husbands,

Hey, how’s it going? It’s us, your wives. We need some help throwing something away. We’ve been trying to do it on our own, but it hasn’t been working. But first, let us just say, we’re women and we’re sensitive about our ish (in a Erykah Badu voice), so don’t receive this as attacking or bashing. We know you can’t see us, but there is no finger wagging or neck rolling. Scout’s honor.

Now, like we were saying, we need some help discarding something. What is it, you ask? Well, it’s kind of hard to put into words. I guess you could call it… expectations? Yea, that sounds about right. We’ll go with it. We need some help discarding the overwhelming expectations that have been put on us.

Many of us have jobs just like you, and those of us who don’t still have the responsibility of maintaining the home and kids. (That may sound simple, but I assure you it is NOT.) It’s a lot: cooking dinner, vacuuming rugs, brushing teeth, giving baths, cleaning bathroom, helping with homework, changing diapers, combing hair, washing clothes, pulling gum out of hair. *Sigh* It’s a lot.

We totally get that society, culture, and family history have told you it’s not your job, that’s it’s “women’s work,” but we’re too weighed down to agree. We NEED your help. Around the house and with the kids, we NEED your help. And we don’t need it in a patronizing way (i.e, “What? I took the chicken out of the freezer”). We need you to see it as your responsibility. If the kids need a bath, don’t point out to us that the kids are a little ripe. Just give them a bath. If there is a mountain of laundry that needs to be washed, don’t point out to us that you’re on your last pair of undies. Just wash the clothes.  Things need to be done in our house, so we should do it–together, as a team.

And, hey, where did that come from anyway, the idea that all things domestic and parenting related are women’s work? To be sure, there are 2 things that should be considered women’s work: birthing babies, and breastfeeding. We would never in a million years ask you to do those things, but everything else is up for negotiation. At least it should be, because here’s the thing: We really, really love you. Like, a whole lot. We love to be around you, to talk to you, to smell you, to be in your arms, to experience your peace, but it’s hard to do that when we have so much on us. It’s hard to be as loving as we should and as nice as we should when we’re drowning in a sea of housework and children.

Maybe we just haven’t asked. That’s a real possibility for some of us. We may have expected you to read our minds or expected you to simply know. Or we may have watched our mothers do everything and just felt too guilty, too inadequate, to ask for help. And maybe you watched your dad pay the bills and leave everything else to your mom. Maybe you watched how your uncles and older brothers and friends’ fathers did nothing in the way of housework. It’s not your fault. It’s not our fault. We were born into it.

But we’re grown now, with lives of our own and houses and kids to match. We have to do something differently. This right here is not working. Women are certifiably depressed over this. That could be one of our daughters one day, one of our nieces, cousins, or students. That could be one of our sons one day, unaware of the burdens their wives face. Yes, I know change is hard and it’s not always convenient, but it’s necessary–for us, your wives, and the future generations who nee to experience something different.

With nothing but sincerity,

Your Wives

P.S. Don’t be mad. You still sexy though

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