Today begins a series I’ve asked guest blogger, Phillip Kiehl, to share. Phillip is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, maintaining a private practice in the Los Angeles area. He partners with his wife, Cynthia, to help people move from accusing one another to accepting one another, building healthy relationships. His book, Creating the Healthy Marriage You Want, challenges married couples to shift focus from “me” to “we.”
In your marriage, are you able to discern if the married relationship is just about you, or is the marriage about “us?” Is it about “me?” Or is your marriage based on “we?”
Far too often, marriage today is viewed as,
you be you and I will be me. If you are asking me to take care of you or be there for you, and this activity interrupts my own personal development, then you are becoming too dependent on me, and that is not what I signed up for.
Me versus We
This attitude contributes to more and more marriages battling the concept of “me” versus “we.”
Bob feels he wants to focus on taking care of himself. Tracy, his wife, is looking for Bob to take care of her. She went into the marriage focusing on how “we” are going to meet each other’s needs. Bob went into the marriage agreeing with Tracy and her ideas, but deep down, he would rather just take care of himself.
A few years after marriage, love and intimacy becomes confusing and distorted due to the expectations both Bob and Tracy have for the marriage.
Differing Expectations of Marriage
Tracy feels alone in this marriage with little connection of love and is hurt by Bob’s selfishness. She loves and pursues him, but feels Bob doesn’t want to be pursued, nor does she experience Bob ever pursuing her.
Instead of love and trust, repeated patterns of injuries and intimacy failures have occurred, leaving many scars and hurts. Trust is broken.
How to Shift from Me to We: Rebuild Trust
The shift of focusing on the “we” rather than the “me” begins with building trust.
Assessing trust in the marriage.
Focusing on the “we” in the marriage will produce high trust. Focusing on “me” in the marriage creates low trust. When trust gets broken as a repeated pattern, selfishness and entitlement enters the marriage. But when trust is high, there is a better chance for the relationship to focus on the “we.”
One of the Old Testament words for trust (batach) has a meaning of “careless.” Think about it: When you trust your spouse, you feel so safe that you are careless—or free of concern—with him or her. You don’t have to hide who you are or be self-protective. ~ John Townsend
When trust is high, you feel you can begin to talk and share about how you are sensing there is distance in the relationship and you want to find a way to focus on the “we” to preserve the marriage.
For a marriage to go the distance, the “we” has to be more important than the “me.”
Trust in an intimate relationship is about feeling safe with another person.
When something happens to cause one, or both, of you to feel unsafe with each other due to a one time event or series of events, trust is eroded. It takes much time and effort to reestablish the sense of safety you need for a marriage to thrive.
(If trust needs to be rebuilt in your marriage, click here for suggestions.)
Listen and Respond to one another.
Healthy couples who focus on the “we” want to participate as they listen and respond to one another. “We” spouses value learning and growing in sensitivity and kindness towards one another.
When one spouse is speaking, the other spouse is listening intentionally. Desire to respond with kindness, respect, and understanding. How you respond to your spouse when he/she is talking is very important to creating a “we” marriage.
If you want a healthy relationship focusing on “we,” write out three to five questions you want to ask each other about trust.
“What have I done this last week in which I have been earning your trust? Do you experience me as someone who you can trust in my words, behavior, and my response to you? Can you say that I am trustworthy?”
- Emphasize that your intention and desire is to participate in building a “we” marriage, promising that you are committed to your spouse.
- Ask if there is anything you can do to show him/her you are trustworthy, and ask some ways you can make improvements for the sake of the “we” working as a team.
- Share your desire to reduce any fears or doubts. You don’t want to assume everything is okay in the area of trust.
- Listen to the feedback. Ask your spouse to be patient with you if there are some changes he/she would like when it comes to proving you are trustworthy.
Confirm your desire to build trust and intimacy by valuing a focus on the “we.”
After your spouse gives you feedback, reciprocate. Remember to give your spouse appreciation for the ways they participate in trust.
Creating the healthy marriage you want begins by building trust. Only when you feel safe with the one you married can “me” become “we.”