How a Couple Rewrote their Stories to have a Thriving Relationship
She came from a family where her father left when she was 5.
She was the oldest of three siblings. Her mother was mostly in a state of overwhelm and she became the “responsible” child. Her mother remarried and she grew close to him. However, he passed away when she was 14 and it was devastating to her.
She continued being in the role of the responsible child.
He came from a family where his mother and father fought a lot.
His other was unhappy with his father most of the time. He did well in school and noticed how happy that made his mother. He did well in sports and noticed how his mother bragged about him to other neighbors and friends. He did not realize until he was an adult how much pressure he put on himself to make his mother proud. He was responsible for her happiness and if it took doing things perfectly, he would do it perfectly. He could do no wrong in his mother’s eyes.
He was the prince who made the queen happy.
He and she got married.
They were in bliss but as in all relationships, there was some disappointments and conflict.
If he forgot something in the store, she would get very upset with him and would say things such as- “Obviously I do not matter to you. You remembered all the stuff you like to eat.” He would react with high defensiveness and anger. A typical response form him here would be- “You are right, I don’t care about you at all. I just suck as a husband because I forgot to buy you your toothpaste!”
On the surface this seems like an argument about disappointment and forgetting toothpaste. Actually it is about the “wounded child” inside the wife feeling totally abandoned AGAIN! And it is about the “wounded child” inside the husband in a panic state because he does not know that he can be loved for being anything than perfect.
The roles they had inherited in their dysfunctional families worked well in their families of origin. However, these very roles lead to a major disconnection between the marital pair and can lead to a dysfunctional couple relationship.
She felt abandoned because deep down, that is her fear. Once there is any evidence of possible abandonment, she will react as if it is a major loss like the ones she had in her childhood. He felt a total withdrawal of love because deep down, his fear is that he is not lovable when he is his imperfect human self.
They were able to see this underlying dynamic working with me.
They understood that they had to break free from obsolete roles they inherited from their dysfunctional family situations.
She learned how to self-sooth when her abandonment fears emerged. She also learned how to rethink these situations when her husband did not think of her. She learned to start paying attention to all the evidence that he DID love her and WAS there for her most of the time.
He learned to self-soothe when she got angry or disappointed with him. He learned to rethink these situations and learned that her feelings had a beginning, middle and end. He would reframe these intermittent times of her negative emotions as opportunities to be there for her and let go of perfectionism.
In a real way, the work they did on their marriage not only helped their marriage; it helped them heal their childhood wounds.
They practiced developing healthy communication skills. They developed more “emotional muscle” to endure and experience their pain without defensive reactions or projecting the worst possible perceptions onto their partner.
This couple did well and most of the couples I see do as well as they did as they matured and broke free of dysfunctional roles.
Some couples need to do some trauma healing work depending on how dysfunctional the families they grew up in were. I do that as well.
We all deserve a chance to become the true selves we are. This is true whether you are in an intimate relationship or not.
If you are single, it prepares you to be in a healthier relationship.
If you are in an intimate relationship, you have the chance to heal yourself as you heal the relationship as the couple I described here did.
It is our right to break free from our dysfunctional families, become more of ourselves and to have nurturing relationships and happy lives.