How Can I Stop Sabotaging My Marriage?

Dear Terry,

I’ve been feeling very discouraged about my ability to keep my marriage together and notice that whenever we have an argument lately, I start thinking about divorce.

Since I first started dating in high school, I’ve been mistrustful and fearful of ending up like my parents who divorced when I was young. I definitely have trust issues and seem to undermine my own happiness by finding fault in others. For example, after Brian and I were married, I started blowing small things out of proportion. When he does something even slightly suspicious such as texting a female co-worker, I usually hit the roof. I don’t give him a chance to explain and might issue an ultimatum such as “I’m done with you and we just aren’t meant to be together.”

Now that we have been married for over five years, we argue less and we’re thinking about having kids. I recognize that Brian is a good man and I’d be devastated if I lost him but I’d like some reassurance that things will continue to improve over time. I hope you can help me to stop thinking that we’re headed for divorce every time we have a disagreement.

Sincerely,
Kendra

Hi Kendra,

In order to stop sabotaging your marriage, you are wise to examine how your trust issues are getting in the way of creating a loving partnership. For instance, as you describe your trust issue with Brian, it sounds like it was a remnant from your parents’ divorce and that you never really gave him a chance to explain himself when you noticed him contacting a female co-worker. Sometimes people’s actions are not intentionally hurtful and it’s possible that he wasn’t aware that this was a hot-button issue for you. Since you were convinced that your mistrustful feelings were because of his behavior, you spent too much time analyzing him rather examining ways you could have extended trust to him and worked on communication.

The good news is that trust is a skill that can be practiced in the context of a relationship with a partner who is dependable and shows consistency between his or her words and actions. The first step in building trust in relationships is to work on your fear of being vulnerable and not holding in your feelings with partners – allowing you to reach a deeper level of intimacy.

One of the hardest things about trusting someone is learning to have confidence in your own judgment. Trust is about much more than catching your partner in a truth or lie. It’s about believing that he or she has your best interests at heart. Every person is born with the propensity to trust others but through life experiences, you may have become less trusting as a form of self-protection.

Many relationships are sabotaged by self-fulfilling prophecies. If you believe your partner will hurt you, you can unconsciously encourage hurts to emerge in your relationship. But day by day, if you learn to operate from a viewpoint that your partner loves you and wants the best for you, you can enjoy trust in your life.

For instance, you seem to have unrealistic or rigid expectations of how Brian should treat you and so you are easily disappointed. Then when he treats you badly, your suspicions are confirmed. Yet you failed to set healthy boundaries from the beginning and hear his side of the story.

People who enjoy healthy relationships have learned from their mistakes and have treated their setbacks with compassion. With an empathic attitude, you can start to connect to the rest of the world, as you remember that we are all flawed in some way. And you start to realize that the wonderful thing about behavior is that it can be improved. As you learn to give apologies and forgive Brian, you’ll realize that you have the power to let go of emotional baggage and build a loving, long-lasting marriage.

5 Ways to Avoid Sabotaging Relationships:

  1. Gain awareness of your history – dating back to childhood. For instance, if you are a people pleaser you may be drawn to partners who you attempt to fix or repair. Learn more about how your parents’ unhealthy patterns have impacted your choices in partners.
  2. Accept your part in the dynamic.For example, if you’re experiencing mistrust try to figure out how much your feelings are based on the present and how much on the past. It’s natural for one person to see their style as preferred and to be convinced that their partner needs to change – neglecting to see their part in the struggle
  3. Let go of being a victim and positive things will start to happen. When you see yourself as a victim, your actions will confirm a negative view of yourself. Instead, focus on the strengths that helped you cope so far in life. Don’t obsess about mistakes but learn from them.
  4. Examine your expectations about intimate relationships. You might be focused on your dream of how a relationship should be rather than the reality of how it is – leading to disappointment. There is no such thing as a soul mate or perfect partner. If your partner lets you down, don’t always assume the worst – sometimes people simply make a mistake.
  5. Use positive intentions such as “I am capable of creating a loving, trusting relationship.” Recognize the newness in each day and that you have the power to make positive things happen by listening to your partner’s side of the story and focusing on ways you can extend trust to your partner through being more vulnerable and loving each and every day.

With time and patience, you can begin to visualize the kind of marriage you need to thrive. You don’t have to let your past dictate the decisions you make today. You have an opportunity to learn from your experience and build the kind of relationship that eluded your parents. Remember to be gentle with yourself and others on your journey.

Twitter, Facebook, and, movingpastdivorce.com. Terry’s award winning book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website.

I’d love to hear from you and answer your questions about relationships, divorce, marriage, and remarriage. Please ask a question here. Thanks! Terry 

 

 

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