As I contemplate my marriage, I am realizing more every day that marriage is not meant to be a life sentence. As people, we change over time based on life experiences. We often find that through these experiences we change. For some couples, it is a harmonious pairing and they can change and grow together. For others, the pairing is not harmonious and the change is so much that at the core, they become so different from who they were when they first got married. The pairing becomes contentious, adversarial, and so deep in resentment. The relationship becomes toxic and draining. While many might see this as a form of failure, it is actually not a failure, but a signal to grow and evolve. At a deeper level, it's an invitation to heal the old scars and emotional wounds from the past.
Marriage is not meant to be a self-imposed prison with people at each other's throats most of the time...if not all of the time. The illusion that "everyone goes through this" is false. Sure, there are good and bad times in all relationships; but when something is deeply wrong, it creates the condition of a soul-sucking experience and it becomes a self-imposed life sentence by choice. I became more aware of this choice when I learned of a term called "Conscious Uncoupling"... a term that releases a person from the self-imposed notion that says we fail when we leave a toxic relationship. Instead, Conscious Uncoupling means honoring the memory of a relationship in a way that recognizes it as a teacher, and as a necessary part of our own inner growth. With Conscious Uncoupling, neither party is good or bad, but changed...and changed for the better, if we so choose.
"Nearly everyone comes into a new marriage idealizing their partner. Everything is perfect in their minds because they’ve misidentified what marriage is really about. As far as they’re concerned, they’ve found the love of their life, the person who understands them completely. Yes, there will be hiccups in the process, but by and large, there’s no more learning left to do. They’ll both be the same people 10 or 20 years from now as they are today. When we idealize our partners, things initially go very well as we subconsciously project our own positive qualities, as well as the qualities we wish we had, onto them. This positive projection, as it’s called, happens during the honeymoon phase of the relationship where both partners can do no wrong in each other’s eyes.
Sooner or later, the honeymoon ends and reality sets in, so does negative projection. This is usually when we stop projecting positive things onto our partners and begin to project our negative issue onto them instead. Unfortunately, this creates a boomerang effect as these negative issues always come right back to us, triggering our unconscious and long-buried negative internal objects, which are our deepest hurts, betrayals, and traumas. This back-and-forth process of projection and aggravation can escalate to the point where it impacts our psychic structure with even more trauma.
For most of us, these old unresolved issues can be traced back to our first intensely emotional relationship, the one we had with our parents. Because most of these old wounds are unconscious to us as adults, we’re subconsciously driven to resolve them, which is why many people end up with partners that are very similar in key ways to their mother or father. If we’re not in tune with this type of dynamic within our relationship, all we end up seeing is the repeated mistrust, abandonment, or other issue that’s followed us through all our previous relationships. We never see that it’s the signal to heal the emotional wound that’s connected to it. Instead, we choose to blame the other person.
Because we believed so strongly in the 'until death do us part' concept, we see the demise of our marriage as a failure, bringing with it shame, guilt, or regret. Since most of us don’t want to face what we see as a personal failure, we retreat into resentment and anger, and resort to attacking each other instead. We’ve put on our armor and we’re ready to do battle. What we don’t realize is that while a full body shield may offer a level of self-protection, it’s also a form of self-imprisonment that locks us inside a life that repeats the same mistakes over and over again. This includes attracting the same kind of partners to push the same emotional buttons for us until we recognize the deeper purpose of such a relationship."
--Dr. Habib Sadeghi & Dr. Sherry Sami