I recently had a discussion with several people who have a pretty pessimistic view of commitment and marriage. Here are some things they shared:
“Who wants that kind of obligation?”
“I don’t like always having to answer to someone.”
“She tried to place restrictions on me.”
Clearly this group viewed marriage as a form of oppression.
Each saw the problem as ending up with the wrong person—that somehow their spouse/partner blocked happiness and stymied their ability to live fully and passionately.
They believed they were the oppressed and that their spouses/partners were the oppressors.
The “Bad-Fit” View of Marriage
In this view, it is assumed that you and your partner are a poor match (you ended up with “Mr./Ms. Wrong”). Your spouse (the oppressor) is seen to be standing in the way of what you (the oppressed) want and need. You may feel judged and criticized, or the marriage may like feel like a series of unreasonable demands that give little breathing room for you to explore life as it should be explored.
As a marriage/couples counselor, I do see couples who are incompatible and struggle to find common interests and a way to connect. Certain incompatibilities can lead to increased challenges that are frustrating and strain a marriage/relationship. However, incompatibility, in and of itself, is not a sign that you’re with the wrong person. There are many couples who seem very different from each other, yet are able to form a very strong connection and feel fulfilled in their relationship.
Are failed marriages/relationships always about being with the wrong person?
The potential problem with the “Bad-Fit” view is that it can be shortsighted. In other words, once you’re convinced that you’re with the wrong person, you stop taking responsibility for what might not be working in the relationship—self-examination and reflection ceases (if they ever existed) since you’re convinced the other person is inherently wrong for you.
When this view of marriage is adopted, it may seem like the solution is to look outside yourself and the relationship—the first step is to get rid of “Mr./Ms. Wrong” in order to someday find “Mr./Ms. Right.”
Relationship Help: Why You Must Look At Your Own Issues
There are many reasons why you might feel your marriage/relationship isn’t working. When you prematurely come to the conclusion that problems are simply the result of a poor match between what you need (or a least, what you think you need) and what the other person can offer, you fail to fully examine your own issues that are impacting the relationship—issues that may lead you to feel emotionally oppressed.
5 Issues that Can Hurt Your Marriage/Relationship
When you’re not aware of the following issues in yourself, you may end up prematurely concluding that you’ve ended up in a relationship with someone who cannot fulfill your basic relationship needs:
1. Difficulties asserting your own needs
Individuals who struggle to articulate and share their needs end up feeling emotionally constricted and oppressed in their marriage/relationship. This internal wall creates an interpersonal wall between you and your spouse/partner. This self-generated oppression leads to resentments toward your partner and feelings of alienation (you might feel very alone even though you’re in a relationship).
2. Difficulties identifying your own needs
Before you can assert your needs, you must be able to determine what it is that you’re actually needing. Disconnection from your emotions and needs will leave you unfulfilled, and this dissatisfaction may get displaced onto your partner when in fact it has more to do with your own struggles.
3. Confusing worrying for carrying
On more than one occasion I’ve heard a spouse/partner declare in a couples counseling meeting, “I care for him too much, that’s my problem!” But upon closer examination, it turns out that these complaints have more to do with worrying and anxiety than about an excess of caring. If you’re a chronic worrier (even when all the signs indicate your marriage/relationship is going well), you’re likely to feel burdened rather than fulfilled in your relationship.
4. Overly Self-conscious
The ability for self-reflection and self-awareness are important skills that allow us to take perspective, receive feedback from others, figure out our emotional needs, and in general, grow as a person. These skills also contribute to a healthy marriage/relationship.
However, when taken to an extreme, self-awareness falls victim to self-consciousness: An unrelenting stream of judgmental, stifling thoughts that imprison and constrict rather than affirm and expand. When you exist in the strait-jacket of self-consciousness, the gifts of love and intimacy will never be fully experienced.
5. Needing to control circumstances
There is no way around it: certain situations will make you uncomfortable. When our discomfort starts to feel intolerable, you can avoid that particular situation or try to control/change it in some way. People who exist in over-control-mode (they regularly try to control others and circumstances) are actually trying to control and contain their own feelings—they quickly feel uneasy with a wide range of circumstances.
The use of control as a means to manage discomfort can lead to significant marriage/relationship problems. The controller never feels content, and the controlled feels manipulated into being someone inauthentic.
So before jumping to the conclusion that you’ve ended up with “Mr./Ms. Wrong,” examine how your own issues might be standing in the way of your own satisfaction. After all, don’t we all have unresolved issues?
To receive my free relationship advice articles and special offers, sign up for my Relationship Help newsletter. As a bonus, you’ll receive two special reports on key marital/relationship issues.
I wish you and your relationship all the best,
Dr. Rich Nicastro
(Featured image “Portrait of a young woman gets earful from husband by David Castillo Dominici from FreeDigitalphotos.net)