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*Editor's note:* This is the first in a five-part series on improving your marriage. In this article, Coach Kim helps you to see your marriage problems from a different perspective and as always, this changes everything.Question:**
We have problems in our relationship. My spouse and I are both easily offended and we fight often. We both resent each other and see the other as the bad guy. Over the years we are getting more disappointed in each other and we have less and less sex. It’s never gets better no matter what we try. Do you have any suggestions?
I get so many questions involving marriage problems and a lack of intimacy that I have decided to write a series of articles on it. This first article is going to help you change the way you see the situation. The articles following this one will give you tips for repairing your relationship.
Fixing your marriage is going to require a serious commitment on your part, though. You must be ready to work on your self-esteem, change your behavior, and forgive at a deep level. I hope you are ready to go here.
This process will work better if both spouses are committed to work on things, but even if you are the only one willing, this process can still work. When you make fundamental changes in how you show up, your spouse will either change himself or herself or it will become obvious you don’t belong together.
Most marriage problems are based in these five issues:
- Disappointment Take a minute and own which you are experiencing and how often. Are you easily offended? Do you resent your spouse for past mistreatment? Are you needy for affection, attention or validation? Are you deeply disappointed that your marriage isn’t what you wanted it to be? Does your defensiveness make you selfish? Are you more worried about getting the love you want, than in giving love the way your spouse wants it?
You must understand that all of these problems are fearproblems (caused by the two core fears):
- The fear of failure — not being good enough or loved.
- The fear of loss — not getting what you deserve or being taken from.
If either husband or wife has subconscious fears around abandonment, not being loved, not being good enough, being taken from, or taken advantage of — all which stem from their past life experiences — they are incapable of creating a healthy relationship until they deal with and change these.
These fears might make you try to control your spouse or hold on too tight until your neediness smothers them. You may have trust issues that could destroy the relationship with doubt and suspicion. You may be afraid of control and rebel against everything your spouse says or does. You may feel inadequate, which makes you get offended too easily. You might be afraid of being shortchanged, which makes you get offended. All of these problems are subconscious fear problems.
When you are afraid of these two things, you are not capable of giving love to another person. You are too focused on yourself. Fear makes you selfish.
It is critical that each of you figure out what your specific fear issues are and get conscious of how they affect you and make you react.
I've had a core fear my whole life that I “have to be perfect or no one will love me.” This fear has caused major problems in my relationships by making me too easily offended and quick to feel rejected and hurt. Anything my spouse says that may infer I'm not perfect feels like the end of the world.
What are your fears and how does your spouse trigger them?
Take an inventory of your past experiences. Have you or your spouse:
- Suffered abuse or neglect
- Suffered the loss of a parent or sibling
- Been cheated on
- Been left out or felt unwanted
- Been judged for your appearance, skill level, intelligence, weight, education, parenting, success, etc. What area are you already insecure about? Are you overly sensitive to feeling inadequate in any of these areas?
- Suffered loss or failure, lack of success or job loss These types of experiences create subconscious fears that can suck the life from a relationship. If they are deeply ingrained you may even need some professional help to change them. There is also an "Understanding Your Marriage Worksheet" available on my website, which can give you some more clarity about your specific fears. I highly recommend you fill it out. If you have been functioning from fear most of your life — with fear of failure or loss playing in the background of your subconscious mind — you haven’t been showing up with real love. You haven't been capable of it.
Even when you did the right things or said the right things, your spouse may not have felt loved. You may have said, “I love you,” you may have given gifts or performed acts of service, but because of your fears, you were still subconsciously focused on your own needs so your gifts had strings attached.
When you give a gift from a needy position, needing validation or appreciation or to get love back, it is more about you than them and they can feel this.
You aren’t capable of giving real love until you need nothing in return.
I am not saying don’t be nice until you fix your self-esteem issues, though. You should keep being loving and kind, but you should also work on your self-esteem because it will make a huge difference if you could give to your spouse and need nothing in return.
It's the difference between telling your wife to go take a relaxing bubble bath because you want her to relax, and telling her to relax so she will feel more romantic and give what you want afterward. If you give the gift with no strings attached, she will feel more appreciative and will often feel more romantic, too.
You must need nothing — because you know who you are and feel good about yourself. You must have good self-esteem and know you deserve to be loved and wanted. You must know that the universe is on your side and that everything that happens is in your life to serve you. You must be easy going about things because of this. You must feel whole and need nothing — because only in this place of trust about your value and your life are you capable of a really healthy marriage.
The number one thing you must be responsible for in your relationship is to clearly and accurately see your own value and feel safe and secure with your life. No one can give this sense of security to you.
No one can make you feel inferior without your permission, and they can’t make you feel good about yourself if you don’t own that either. It is something you must choose for yourself. You must change the way you value yourself and you must see life as a safe and beautiful place.
There are many resources on my website to help you work on your self-esteem and escape your fears of failure and loss. I encourage you to take advantage of them. They are the first step to a better marriage.
Take some time this week to fill out the worksheet and figure out exactly what fears are causing the problems in your relationship. Understand that you must fix these; your spouse cannot be responsible for your low self-esteem. You may want to read the article about being upset, too.
Next Monday, I will address how to start changing things.
You can do this. Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is a sought-after life coach and popular speaker who specializes in eliminating drama in the workplace. She offers free coaching calls every Tuesday night.