The title of this blog may seem somewhat counterintuitive for a marriage blog. The aim of this post is to consider the role of the individual in marriage. Transformation and growth are what we are called to in marriage - not only as a marital unit, but also as individuals. After all on judgment day, we will not be able to plead on behalf of our spouse. We - as individuals are responsible for our own transformative walk with Christ. The concept of the pain cycle is just that a cycle. When violations of love and trustworthiness happen to us as individuals, we respond in some way. Those responses take place in two areas: who we are and how safe we feel.
Our sense of identity is rooted in the amount of love that we are able to give and receive in relationship. When we have grown up in a home where love was freely given, we tend to have a more secure positive idea about our identity. When we do not receive love in our developmental years, we tend to develop false notion about our identity - "I am unlovable." "I am unworthy." "I an inadequate." The ways in which we perceive ourselves then show up in action - fight or flight. We may blame other for not loving us. We may shame ourselves to the point withdraw. The ways in which we respond directly communicate to other people how loved they feel from us - often times only deepening their same feelings of being unloved.
Our sense of safety is determined in how trustworthy relationships have been in our lives. When we talk about safety in this sense, we are not solely talking about the feeling someone gets when walking in a dark alley. We are also talking about the reliability in relationship - "Will my caretaker be there in the morning?" "Are my needs provided for?" "Can I trust the person whom I love?" When we receive adequate amounts of trust in relationship, we feel safe. When there have been violations of trustworthiness, we tend to not trust relationships. Like in our sense of identity, the ways in which we feel or do not feel safe manifests in actions - again, fight or flight. We may control everything around us because we feel unsafe. We may act chaotically giving little regard to our well-being or the well-being of others. When we respond act out of a lack of feeling safe, we tend to hurt those around us.
What do these violations of love (identity) and trustworthiness (safety) have to do with the individual and marriage?
Imagine how a spouse would feel if his/her spouse did nothing but control every aspect of their lives together. As a response the spouse being controlled turned to alcohol in an attempt to not feel the lack of trust in the relationship and his/her feelings of inadequacy. Our response? We must be willing to look at ourselves, the ways in which we respond to our spouses, and confront our personal feelings about who we are and how trustworthy we feel. The responsibility is in the individual not the marriage. When we take on our own feelings and actions, we are able to truly have relationship with our spouse as we are being transformed towards Christ.
Marriage - more than just a partnership.