No person is immune the pain of ending an intimate relationship, even marriage counselors. While “Divorced Marriage Counselor” may seem like an oxymoron, it is my reality. It is a reality which I have chosen to approach with the eye of a counselor, so that I can use my experience with it to help my clients navigate the storms of marriage and relationships. Each day it seems that I learn something new, and here are a few of the things which I have learned.
Don’t Take Things Too Personally
There is no such thing as a perfect person, and even the best partner is going to make mistakes. In my first marriage, I thought that we had both gone in with our eyes open. Our vows even followed a theme of showing grace to one another when the inevitable mistakes and hurts came along. But then…well, I don’t imagine I need to throw up a spoiler warning, but it didn’t work.
You’re going to hurt each other
Even the most compatible, loving, nauseatingly affectionate couple is going to have some friction. This is because each partner is an individual person, and two individuals in close proximity are going to have friction between them. What matters is not THAT you hurt one another, it’s what you do WHEN you hurt one another. The answer, fight like you love each other of course!
Accept One Another
Part of marriage is learning to accept your partner as they are. It can be very easy to start looking at your partner as a collection of things that have hurt you. This is especially true if you’ve been hurt recently. It can be tempting to ask the question “How many more times is my partner going to do something that hurts me before I leave?” when something painful happens. This is why it is important to look at the relationship as a whole. Yes, your partner has hurt you; but they are also your best friend. He was insensitive yesterday, but when you had a bad day last week he held you while you cried. She was rude to your parents, but she is the most amazing mother you’ve ever seen. People are not only the things that hurt us. It is vital to balance those perspectives out.
So how does one do this? Here are a few pointers to check your perspective.
- Remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes. Remember that it is not your job to punish your partner for making a mistake. You’re their partner, not their parent. Talk to them about how their actions hurt you, and avoid attacking them.
- Remind yourself that you love your partner. Sure, they’ve hurt you now, but try not to allow the present hurt to taint your history.
- Remember that it is okay to feel hurt. When you talk to your partner about how they’ve hurt you, take ownership of your pain and let them take ownership of their actions.
- Lastly, don’t use your pain as a weapon. It can really tempting to bludgeon your partner with whatever it was that has hurt you. Rather, use it as a way to connect with your partner. In a healthy relationship, talking about how you have hurt one another can foster deeper connection. Whereas in an unhealthy relationship, hurt can drive a wedge between partners.
A Note on Abuse
This post has been somewhat of a difficult one, because I am basically challenging you to put up with your partners faults because of the love you feel for them. There is, however, an exception: Abuse. There is a line and a limit to all of these actions. If your partner is physically, verbally, or emotionally abusive, manipulative, or neglectful: disregard this post and get help. Some day I will write a post on how to identify and navigate abuse in your relationships, but this is not that post.
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