Tips for Expressing What You Are Really Feeling About Your Marriage Problems
By Benjamin Deu, MA, LMHC, Seattle Christian Counseling
This article is part of a series about the personality imprints covered in “How We Love.” You can find an introductory article about imprints here. This article is a practical follow-up article to an article explaining the Vacillator imprint. You can find that article here.
Tips taken from “How We Love” (p. 331-339)
The authors do not recommend trying to accomplish the following tasks in a few days. They suggest you take a week or two to be sure whether you are a vacillator and then share with someone which aspects of your character, or experiences, put you in that category. After you get that figured out, start on the following steps. Take as long as you need to go through them. It may take a few weeks, or even months, to get to the roots of your problems.
“Act on the suggestions for as long as it takes to see results. However, if an issue doesn’t seem to apply to you, don’t spend time there. Move on and try something else.” (319, 328)
1. Looking back on your childhood, do you remember times when you hoped and waited for connection or attention? Were you ever abandoned? What happened and how old were you? Does the description of the inconsistent parent in the vacillator article remind you of your parents? “List some disappointments you experienced during your growing up years. Write some key memories and the feelings that characterized those memories.” Share this with your spouse. (335)
2. Do you ever experience the feelings you wrote about in No. 1 with your spouse? Make a journal entry about any similarities between past and present feelings. (335)
3. What were some things that made you sad or angry when you were a kid? How did you deal with these feelings? How did your parents react to them? (335)
4. If you genuinely desire to work out of your imprint and relieve your marriage problems, it is essential you develop self-awareness and understand the causes of your imprint. Without this, you will never be able to see or understand why you approach and sabotage relationships the way you do. “You must therefore acknowledge and accept that you probably have a strong desire to find a person who can relieve all your ‘bad’ feelings by being close, staying engaged, and giving you lots of attention. The agitation and uncertainty you feel when this does not happen isn’t new. You felt it countless times as a child. So continue to review childhood memories and ask God to help you identify the roots of your imprint.” (335) In order to do this, you need to stop focusing outward on the things people do to hurt or anger you, and instead turn the lens inward and ask the Lord to show you the wounds that fuel your current feelings, behaviors, and reactions.
5. Everyone has unrealistic expectations about romance, but vacillators turn it into an art. They enjoy the passion and constant commitment of the beginning of relationships and are devastated when that cools. Instead of accepting this as normal, they assume the relationship is doomed, become angry at these familiar feelings of loss, and pressure their spouse to reignite their earlier passions. Does this sound familiar? How? (336)
6. The vacillator imprint drives people to find that one person who will always make them feel special and wanted so they will never have to worry about rejection again. Take a moment to list the important people in your life you may have put on this unrealistic pedestal. What you may notice about this list is that most of these relationships are fairly new. Now, for each person on the list, write three weaknesses and human limitations. Why do you need to idealize these people? How do you feel when you accept their faults and weaknesses? (336)
7. You tend to not place as much importance on long-term relationships and have difficulty seeing the good side in people who have disappointed you. Make a list of people who have hurt or let you down. Write three good qualities next to each of their names. Find an opportunity to tell these people what you appreciate about them.
8. Read the following scriptures:
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom 12:9-21 NIV)
“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Heb. 12:14-15 NIV)
How is God speaking to you through these scriptures about your past and present relationships? Do you think he is prompting you to make changes or take action? Be specific about this next one – what can you do to make your life more obedient to these verses? “By the way, even if it is best for you to have no contact with someone, have you forgiven that person for hurting you? Explain your answer.” (336)
9. What are some things in your marriage you are mad about? Write them down. Think about what feelings may provide the foundation for this anger. (337)
10. Because vacillators tend to channel their feelings into anger, when you find yourself heating up in the future, take a moment to think about what you are really feeling. Share it with whomever you are mad. “Anger tends to repel others and make them defensive, but other feelings can invite openness and intimacy. So instead of saying, ‘I’m sick and tired of your promises to be home for dinner. Just don’t bother coming home,’ express your sadness: “I’m sad you aren’t coming home for dinner. I was looking forward to sharing some things about my day and hearing about yours.’” (337) While there are times when anger is a perfectly fine emotion, you need to learn how to express the more vulnerable feelings that underscore your agitation. Make a journal entry about what it was like to tell someone about your anger in a healthier way. (337)
11. Vacillators put a lot of energy in gauging other people’s moods and intentions, but as they don’t live inside that person’s head, they can’t be certain. For example, you may feel uncomfortable because you assume someone else doesn’t like you, but how can you be sure unless you ask? And if turns out they don’t like you, now you have an opportunity to find out why and correct it. Remember– “your feelings are real, but you may be imagining the other person’s intentions or feelings.”
Think about some times lately when you made assumptions about a situation you felt sure about at the time, but now realize are just guesses. Share those assumptions with a loved one. How did that feel? If you need a hug, ask for one, and don’t be ashamed to cry. (338)
12. Following this, ask God to help you to realize it when you assume things about people and situations. Find ways to be sure about your guesses– “You seem distant. Did I do something to upset you?” “I can tell you are sad. I need to know if it’s about something I did.” (338)
13. Vacillators tend to communicate indirectly, almost like passive aggression. They grew up seeing one parent punishing the other without explaining what they were doing or why, they just expected the other parent to recognize what was going on and ask forgiveness. When vacillators get older, they behave similarly. Are there times when you behave this way– acting out your feelings rather than talking about them? Journal some examples followed by a statement that explicitly communicates how you felt. After all, your spouse can’t read your mind, and it makes it easier for both of you to resolve problems if you just tell them what you’re upset about. (338-339)
14. Do you have a habit of bringing up the past during arguments? Vacillators are so full of unaddressed pain that, when conflict arises, they sometimes start bringing up everything that’s ever hurt them. When you’re in a disagreement with your spouse, stick to one topic and avoid painting them as, “all bad.” You would not have married them if you had not seen some good in them; try to think of something good to mention you appreciate about them. Afterward, journal about your attempt to stay on a single topic and include a compliment in with your complaint. (339)
Dealing With Your Feelings
Understanding what created your imprint and how it affects your approach to relationships is essential to addressing your marriage problems. Because dealing with imprints involves examining deep-seated personal issues created during childhood, you may find it helpful to sit down with a professional at Seattle Christian Counseling. They have the skills to apply proven therapeutic techniques and spiritual principles to your life and help you be the person the Lord desires you to be. A session with a professional Christian counselor in Seattle provides a safe, welcoming place for you to open old wounds and find ways to heal them for the benefit of your
images cc: freedigitalphotos.net Loving couple having fun by imagerymajestic and Stressed school boy by David Castillo Dominici