Alright, in our year of the SELF theme, this month’s posts are all about self-confronting with love.
Which brings us to our topic today: self-confronting: do I REALLY have to?
Guess what my answer is . . .
Go on, guess.
WRONG! The answer is YES!
Self-confronting is SO crucial in a marriage.
So glad you asked.
Guess what marriage therapist Dr. Jennifer Finlayson Fife advises those who are dating that the NUMBER ONE characteristic to look for in a potential spouse is?
Charisma? Kindness? Compassion? Rock hard abs?
Nope nope and nope.
She says the NUMBER ONE most important quality in a spouse is . . . . . drumroll please. . .
THE ABILITY TO SELF-CONFRONT!
(betcha didn’t see that coming)
Another one of my favorite self-help gurus, Mark Manson agrees. He puts it this way,
“Some of us are unwilling to compromise on superficial traits: looks, intelligence, education, etc. Those are important, but if there’s one trait that I’ve learned you should never compromise on, it’s this:
The ability to see one’s own flaws and be accountable for them.
Because the fact is that problems are inevitable. Every relationship will run into fights and each person will run up against their emotional baggage at various times. How long the relationship lasts and how well it goes comes down to both people being willing and able to recognize the snags in themselves and communicate them openly.”
Amen, amen, amen.
The only way for a relationship to thrive is for both parties to be able and willing to honestly look at themselves (read: the ugly parts of themselves) and take action to correct those things that are making life for their partner difficult.
Unfortunately, self-confronting is SO. HARD.
Imagine with me for a moment that your spouse comes to you and shares with you what they believe to be your greatest flaws.
(Is your stomach clinching yet?)
a) Become agitated and angry?
b) Become defensive and place the blame on your spouse?
c) Collapse into an inner shame attack?
d) Brush it off to avoid thinking about it?
Chances are most of us would probably use one or more of those tactics.
The good news is, we are all in good company. The bad news is, we all need to work on confronting our flaws in a healthier way (yes it is possible, keep reading).
Most of us, most of the time when confronted with our own faults will do one of two things:
1. Blame and avoid.
2. Fall into shame.
Let’s say our spouse comes to us and says something to the effect of, “Ya know, I really don’t think you listen to me when I talk to you. I feel unheard and misunderstood when we have conversations. It makes me feel like you don’t care about what I’m saying.”
If we are using tactic #1: blame and avoidance, we will likely react thusly:
Our brain is sensing danger and will almost always go to it’s first line of defense: defensiveness. Our brain wants to look for EVERY reason that our spouse is wrong (“but you talk SO MUCH! And hey, I don’t see YOU making much of an effort to understand ME!”)
Our brains are so anxious to do this because its so much easier. We get a free pass. We get to live guilt-free. There is nothing to work on if there is no problem. There is nothing to feel bad about if there is no problem.
“Problem? With me? What problem? YOU’RE the one with a problem!”
Or let’s say you take tactic #2: shame.
If your partner comes at you with claims that you don’t listen well and you fall into thought patterns of, “Oh no! I’m the worst. I’m making my partner feel unheard. I’m so selfish. I’m such a bad spouse.” This is shame.
Many times we use tactic #1 to AVOID tactic #2 because feeling shame feels so terrible.
This is why self-confronting is so dang hard.
But I have good news!
We don’t HAVE to collapse into blame OR shame when confronted with our faults. There is a way to take an honest look at ourselves, see where we can improve and work on improving WITHOUT blaming others or shaming ourselves.
And it is a CRUCIAL skill to learn for both spouses in a marriage. But since we can’t control our spouse’s ability to self-confront, let’s work on our own.
On your road to becoming a better spouse and gaining the ability to self-confront, you’re going to need three things: a desire to become better, the ability to love yourself no matter what and a willingness to experience negative emotions.
1. A desire to become better.
It all starts with a desire. This desire has to be there and HAS to come from you (not from your spouse) if any real progress is to be made. And if you are in this camp, I applaud you dear reader.
I really do.
Because most people don’t ACTUALLY want to do the work to become better spouses. They’d much rather stay in their comfort zone or blame their partner for all of their problems or avoid digging into self-confrontation in order to avoid PAIN.
If you are willing to take those things on, to you I say bravo and tip my hat.
2. The ability to love yourself no matter what.
Lacking this ability will lead you to never self-confront because it will be too. darn. painful. You will be in a falling elevator straight to Shameville when confronted with even your minor flaws.
Contrary to what many people think, loving yourself does NOT come from being awesome or having only minor faults. Loving yourself is not contingent on the level of your abilities or character traits at all. And loving yourself is not just a trait that some people are born with and some people aren’t.
Loving yourself is A SKILL. It must be developed (often slowly and over time) and practiced in order to improve.
It is such an important part of self-confrontation that I am going to dedicate an entire post to the topic. (my next post to be exact- stay tuned!)
3. Willingness to experience negative emotions for progress.
Anxiety. Pain. Guilt. Fear.
Ugh. These are not fun things to experience. For anybody. Most people would do ANYTHING to avoid them and often utilize a variety of numbing techniques when those negative emotions do rear their heads (porn, alcohol, brownies, perfectionism, Instagram, rage, pick your poison).
While self-confronting WITH LOVE will keep these negative emotions from unnecessarily taking center stage, some degree of these feelings should be expected. The trick is to learn to lean in (as opposed to stuffing down, running away or numbing), feel the feelings and let that be ok. Then move on.
When you feel these feelings while confronting your faults- don’t run away, don’t avoid them, lean in and know that progress is right around the corner and IT IS WORTH IT.
Ok, the goal of this post was to convince you that yes, in fact we all need to self-confront (have I convinced you?) and it doesn’t HAVE to be as terrible a process as we think. It can be healthy and helpful and lead to a beautiful freedom both for ourselves and for ourselves.
Now we are left with the question- but HOW?
I’m going to be tackling that question over the next three posts. Next week I’ll talk about how to gain the skill of self-love. Then, I’m going to give a list of necessary questions to regularly ask yourself in order to be a better spouse and finally we’re going to dig into the difference between shame and guilt where I get to gush about my favorite self-help guru Dr. Brene Brown.
Yay! Are you SO excited?! Are you just clawing at your screen right now saying, “Let’s do this! I just can’t wait to start my journey of self-confrontation!!!!!”
Cool. Me too.