The Happiness Connection  

Keep shame out of marriage

I was doing some research for a project I am involved in when a statistic caught my attention.

According to author, speaker, and psychologist Ty Tashiro, about 50 per cent of couples get divorced, another 10-15 per cent separate, but do not file any paperwork, and seven per cent stay together, but are chronically unhappy.

Of the 30 or so per cent who choose to stay married, do you think it is because they have Cinderella-like experiences? I don’t know the answer to that, but I am willing to bet they don’t.

It is more likely they have found their way into Stage Three of their marriage. This is the topic I wrote about last week, so check it out if you aren’t sure what I’m referring to. They have learned how to handle the difficulties, not eliminate them.

What I want people to take away from that statistic is not the bleak future married couple have ahead of them, but the need for us to release the shame that accompanies having a relationship that isn’t Disney perfect.

Being married is not for the faint of heart, or anyone who is afraid of hard work. Creating a life with another person takes grit, resilience, and determination. Perhaps someone should make a movie about Cinderella’s life after she gets married, so we could see what she is really made of.

Although the struggles, arguments, and frustrations in a marriage are real, most people are loath to admit they exist. Posts on social media share the good times, but how many people are brave enough to share the bad ones? Not the details, but the fact that less-than-perfect days exist?

I am not suggesting you should publish your fights on Facebook, but I am advocating for an end to pretense. So many married individuals feel ashamed because they don’t realize what they are going through is normal for most couples.

The types of struggles and the best way to deal with them have no normal, but the fact that marriage has tough times is.

Shame causes untold pain and comes from feeling defective. If your relationship is in trouble, you may have a deep-seated belief that it is because you aren’t enough.

Shame is experienced when you fail to meet your own, or other people’s standards.

There is nothing shameful about shame. It is something we all feel, even babies, but that doesn’t mean we should just accept it. Often, when people react in an unexpectedly negative way to something you’ve done, your shame kicks in and you think it is because you’ve done something wrong.

You have no ability to control the feelings, or behaviours of others, so stop believing that you do. If you experience rejection, it isn’t because you are unlovable. The other person’s reaction, and actions stem from something inside them, not because of you.

I surprised my husband with a weekend away for his birthday in the early years of our marriage, and was horrified for discover that he hates surprises and wanted to go home immediately.

I still don’t understand why he reacted the way he did, but it doesn’t matter — now. At the time I was devastated. His reaction was part of his journey, not mine and I need to respect that.

The only person you will ever be able to control, or take responsibility for, is yourself. Reminding yourself of this fact on a regular basis can help you let go of feelings of shame.

Research has discovered that the best antidote for shame is compassion. This word comes from the Latin roots com (with) and pati (suffer.) In other words, compassion is about suffering with another person. Dictionary.com defines it as sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.

This brings me back to my belief that we need to be more honest and open about what it is like to be married. You cannot receive compassion from others unless they know what you are going through. By choosing to be open and vulnerable, you can move past the shame.

Researchers have discovered that throughout your life, the kindness, support, and sympathy you receive from others impacts how your brain, body, and sense of well being develops. The first step to letting this happen is exposing your soft underbelly to people you trust.

Being compassionate with yourself is equally as important as receiving it from others. Love and accept who you are right now, at this point in your life. Let yourself off the hook when things go wrong. See yourself on a journey full of opportunities to learn and grow.

Treat yourself the way you’d like a good friend to treat you, with love, kindness, and forgiveness.

Nurture and accept who you are, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Stop trying to measure up to someone else’s expectations or standards you have set for yourself. Release these constraints and practise being, and accepting, the authentic you.

We are familiar with the saying, “No one is perfect” and few of us would disagree with it. The same sentiment holds true for marriage. No marriage is perfect. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy of your time, attention, and love. Both you and your relationship are works in progress.

If you are having a tough time with your relationship, don’t get caught in feelings of shame, instead reach for a liberal dose of compassion. 

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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