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Is Your Marriage in a Deep Pit?

I recently spoke with a parent whose marriage is in a deep pit. I felt compelled to share my deep pit story and how prayers, soul searching, and a powerful, identity-revealing personality tool helped me crawl out. 

At the 21-year point, my marriage had withstood many twists and turns. However, when my husband and I drove away from the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, after dropping off both kids at once, we were instantly alone. Suddenly, we were being referred to by the title “Empty Nesters” and I despised it. It sounded so hopeless and well…empty. I tried to put on an optimistic front by calling ourselves “New Chapter Adapters” instead, but who was I kidding? I was empty. Our marriage was empty and this was a make it or break it event that felt like death.

For fifteen years, my husband, Greg and I were blissfully happy. We were in the wonderful whirlwind of birthday parties, soccer games and driving our camper across the US. But little by little our rock-solid identities begin to erode. The kids were becoming more independent, putting my identity as mom on shaky ground and Greg’s corporate job was wielding some identity crushing blows as well. Slowly, we were becoming different people. When Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist was asked how he had stayed married to the same woman for so many years he replied that he hadn’t been married to the same woman because she had changed into many different women over the years, and it was his job to keep knowing her.

I was discovering that if I didn’t even know who I was anymore, I most certainly wouldn’t know my partner.

The new person I was becoming was extremely angry. Angry that my entire purpose as a stay-at-home mom, beloved and needed, vanished in an moment, while Greg’s purpose as a CEO, respected and needed, remained the same. I was angry that I hated the quiet house and Greg loved it. Angry that I was crying all the time and Greg seemed unfazed. Angry that I felt bored and unfulfilled, while he was content. The more emotional I became, the more he shut down and tried to avoid this new crazy stranger he was living with.

I didn’t realize that anger is a secondary emotion that was hiding something deeper underneath. Now, whenever I am angry, I ask myself what is really going on? What am I afraid of? In this case, I was afraid of being worthless. We all cover our deepest fears in different ways. Maybe we throw ourselves into volunteering or work. Maybe we dull the pain with food, shopping, alcohol, pornography or even an affair.

But how do we uncover what is really lurking underneath? The root cause of our problem?

I prayed desperately for a way out of the darkness. As a student of personality tools, I began to dig deeper into a powerful self-awareness tool called The Enneagram that became one of the sparks that began bringing light back into this dark time. If understood and utilized properly, it can help you discover your negative patterns and triggers, revealing your conflict styles, blind spots, and core needs.

I discovered that my core need is to feel special, have novelty and be understood. For years, my kids had bolstered the first two needs, so with them gone, I was feeling completely deprived. I learned that I was expecting my husband to rescue me from my pain, so when he seemed to be doing the opposite; fleeing from me, I was becoming more furious. I also discovered that my husband’s core needs are peace and autonomy. This is why he was annoyingly content with the empty house and why he was running away from my anger. Instead of diving into his emotions and figuring them out like I was doing, he was burying them. What seemed like indifference on his part, was actually an inability to uncover his deep pain.

Twenty-one years earlier, we had enthusiastically said, “I do” because we thought we had everything in common and life wasn’t chipping away at our false identities. But now here we are, married for better or for worse, living with the realization that our most basic core needs are opposing each other; my need to feel understood and special and his need for peace and autonomy.

Through our commitment to God and each other, as well as utilizing the Enneagram, we have learned to understand our opposite core needs and realize that no matter how hard we try, we won’t always meet the mark. We have to search ourselves daily to surrender our old negative patterns and beliefs so we can understand our true identities and support each other through the many different seasons of life.

There is a way out of the pit and I would be honored to offer you a hand up. Click the link below to learn more or get started.

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Marriage Coaching Sessions

You can’t put a price tag on a happy marriage and it takes work to crawl out of a pit, but if possible, wouldn’t you like to save time and money by working with a coach who already has a deep understanding of your marriage dynamic before you even say one word? Through the Enneagram and Meyers Briggs Assessments we can celebrate complimentary patterns and diagnose negative ones so that you can begin moving towards a better understanding of each other and the unified marriage you desire. First, you will be sent two assessments (if you haven’t already taken them). Once completed, I will evaluate the results and then we will meet to explore your:

  • Core needs/emotions
  • Defenses
  • Triggers
  • Negative Patterns
  • Conflict/Communication styles
  • Family of Origin issues
  • Strategies for moving towards each other
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