All of us grow up with styles of relating designed to protect us from harm. These are fractured love styles that are based upon the ways in which we were betrayed growing up. Even the healthiest families cannot avoid these dynamics because we all have the tendancy to harm one another. Harm and hurt are only to various degrees among families and as a result, we develop these fractured love styles that aren't built upon vulnerability and intimacy, but upon self-protection.
Some of us power up and try to force control. Some of us play victims. Some of us avoid. Some of us play people pleaser to keep everyone happy. Some of us go back and forth between trying to connect and running away. All of these fractured love styles dampen vulnerability and intimacy. Unfortunately, in our desire to protect ourselves, we end up feeling isolated and alone smack in the middle of our marriage.
Our greatest fear is relationship itself. Marriage is an invitation to know and be known, to love and be loved, to risk exposure and vulnerability. This invitation is both our greatest desire and our greatest fear. The only way we can risk entering relationship within marriage is through truth, grace, fear, and courage.
Truth means naming our needs and desires instead of self-protecting. We lay out our needs and desires on the table in front of our partner, and then we give them complete freedom to meet those needs and desires as they choose and/or as they are able. We risk our needs and desires not being met. Instead of trying to self-protect in order to prevent betrayal, we risk betrayal and then lay out appropriate boundaries when a betrayal occurs. This gives our partner the freedom to try to meet our needs without the pressure of perfection. (If betrayal has already occurred, then we set the boundary immediately and over time widen the boundary as our partner demonstrates trust over time). In addition to naming our needs and desires, we listen to them name their needs and desires with a sense of openness.
Grace is very similar to truth. Two sides of the same coin. In grace, we name harm done to us and lay it out on the table in front of our partner. We give them complete freedom to take ownership of the harm they have done. Often we have also harmed them and so we give them the freedom to name our harm. In grace, we have complete freedom to take ownership without being forced to do so. In this frame of mind, we see the dignity and value of our partner because we choose to name the harm and yet have already forgiven them by releasing them from any obligation to make up for what they have done. Finally, one other aspect of grace is to acknowlege that our partners simply can't do everything. Sometimes, their inability to meet our needs and desires are hampered by ability and/or the fact that they have been harmed so much in the past that it will take a long time for them to be able to learn how to move towards you in love.
Finaly, fear and courage are primary components of marriage. In fact, the discomfort of fear isn't something we can gloss over, sweep under the carpet, or pretend doesn't exist. However, healthy fear and unhealthy fear are two different animals. When we self-protect in order to try not to get hurt, this is unhealthy fear because we inevitably harm our partner and ourself. However, when we risk moving towards our partner withour needs and desires exposed, then we experience a healthy kind of fear that amounts to courage and bravery. Moreover, we tell each other that despite our imperfections, we want to move towards each other at the core of our hearts but that it is the most terrifying thing we could ever do.
In summary, marriage is an invitation to relationship and love through truth, grace, fear, and courage. Choosing to risk love within marriage is one of the most terrifying things we could ever embark upon, but for those who are willing to risk vulnerability over fractured love styles, it is also the place where we find deep feelings of gratitude.