What does healthy growing up look like in marriage?
There are two challenges or dilemmas that have major roles in relationships.
The emotional reactivity/rationality challenge and the togetherness/separateness dilemma.
These two forces intermix in various and subtle ways to shape your relationship.
The togetherness/separateness force is a natural force much like the need plants have for sunshine or water. Every plant requires a certain level of sunlight for healthy development — too much sunshine will kill the plant and too little sunshine will lead to the plant’s death.
Marriages are the same in terms of togetherness and separateness. Too much togetherness or too little togetherness, depending on each individual’s need, will influence the health of the relationship.
When people need more togetherness than their spouse provides, they are more likely to be emotionally reactive and become less rational. When people need more separateness than their spouse provides, they will invent ingenious ways to achieve separateness.
Problems often arise when one wants (needs) togetherness at a time in which their spouse wants (needs) separateness.
Humans are condemned to be separate yet paradoxically to seek togetherness.
Many people enter marriage or committed relationships with the fantasy that they will nearly always get their togetherness and separateness needs fulfilled whenever they desire. Over time as they become more emotionally fused they are hurt whenever their spouse does not give them what they want.
Some gradually conclude that they will never get their needs fulfilled and thus begin to drift apart.
Those that do this miss the divineness of marriage as a place to grow more basic self.
They miss the many opportunities to manage their anxiety whenever their needs are not satisfied.
Know this: No spouse can provide just the right amount of togetherness or separateness.
Therefore, you must learn to self-soothe, to calm yourself, to manage your anxiety, and to self-validate. Then you become a better mate and in the process get a better marriage.
The sacredness of marriage is a great place to develop more basic self and to work on your own level of growing up.
In a nutshell: growing up is the ability to tolerate anxiety!
And no place tests your metal for tolerating anxiety like a committed relationship.
You know you have the spouse you need when you become anxious due to a simple look or comment like, “Why did you turn here?”
Much of the togetherness/separateness dilemma is influenced by one’s ability to self-validate, self-soothe, to be intimate with self, and to calm self.
People needing more togetherness than their spouse can provide set themselves up for being held hostage by their spouse.
Grown up people can tap into their own personal source for self-validation and self-intimacy rather than being dependent upon their spouse for validation and intimacy.
Most of us have been reared on a diet of other-validation and are very poor at self-validation.
Grown up people are more in charge of their own life needs and become less dependent upon others. At the same time, they can actually be more available to others because they operate out of more wholeness, rather than out of a state of deprivation.
In short, grown up people have more to give!
Deprivation creates a state that looks a great deal like slavery and takes away choices. Poorly-developed (fusion oriented) people need togetherness, rather than simply wanting to connect. Poorly-developed (individuation oriented) people also need separateness and cannot be close and intimate without needing to distance.
Too much togetherness or too much separateness creates anxiety.
And anxious people are not comfortable to be around.
The well-developed (i.e. grown up) person can be close to others while being a separate individual, all without becoming emotionally reactive. The well-developed individual can choose what emotions he/she wants to experience. Well-developed people are in charge of their emotions rather than their emotions being in charge of them. Well-developed individuals can be intimate and passionate without losing self.
Think of it this way: Those that cannot control themselves will seek to control everything around them.
If people get to where they can stand their ground with their spouse (or family of origin) and take the best shots their spouse (or family of origin) can deliver while calming and soothing themselves, they will find that the rest of the world shoots blanks.
The key is being able to self-validate and self-soothe when you feel that emotional reactivity about to rise.
You’ll feel a sense of being in charge of self and open an array of choices in responding when you’re calm and rational.
Growing up is the ability to tolerate pain for growth.
Growing up is the ability to fill your emptiness.
Well-developed people still have some degree of emptiness as emptiness is a part of the naturalness of life as a human.
Too much emptiness is the problem.
And emptiness is a result of too little spirituality.
Empty people tend to place undue and unrealistic expectations on others.
The safeguards against too much emptiness are basic self and spirituality.
To sum all this up: No one ever gets a better spouse than they are willing to lose.
If you are fearful of losing the relationship, you will stop the growth processes for both of you.
Thus the challenge is to work on growing yourself up – which frees your spouse to begin growing himself/herself up as well.
Divorce rarely leads to getting a better spouse, because a divorced person usually seeks out another partner that is at their former partner’s level of development.
People at like levels of growth attract each other.
You only get a better partner by improving your level of growth.
And the best place you can work on growing up is in your current relationship!