10 Characteristics Of A Conscious Marriage
This is an excerpt from Harville Hendrix’s book, Getting The Love You Want: A Guide For Couples. These are the 10 recommendations he makes for easily shifting your reactions and behaviors such that you are mature, loving, kind and additive in your relating. If you and your partner are able to give and receive love from each other, you can run through this list and find the places you may be able to improve your love life together. If you struggle to receive love, or your partner does, please refer to this article too.
I’ve written my personal commentary below each of the 10 characteristics.
1. You realize that your love relationship has a hidden purpose – the healing of childhood wounds. Instead of focusing entirely on surface needs and desires, you learn to recognize the unresolved childhood issues that underlie them. When you look at marriage with this X-ray vision, your daily interactions take on more meaning. Puzzling aspects of your relationship begin to make sense to you, and you have a greater sense of control.
Susan’s commentary: Surprised that this is #1? Years of therapy with countless couples point to the wounds and unfinished business we bring into our relationships. The next time you find fault with your partner, shine a light into your own dark experiences to see how you are projecting your baggage onto your relating. Just stopping each time you have a frustration and considering where this upset is coming from can do wonders for increasing the ease in your marriage. As you bring your awareness to your own dissatisfaction, you can begin to put in perspective your partner’s innocence. Replace anger with compassion and imagine that what they are doing is not to make you upset and likely has nothing to do with you.
2. You create a more accurate image of your partner. At the very moment of attraction, you began fusing your lover with your primary caretakers. Later you projected your negative traits onto your partner, further obscuring your partner’s essential reality. As you move toward a conscious marriage, you gradually let go of these illusions and begin to see more of your partner’s truth. You see your partner not as your savior but as another wounded human being, struggling to be healed.
Susan’s commentary: Knowing that you are both making effort to become confident, whole, happy humans bonded together in a journey makes the little frustrations of coupledom subside. Replace agitation with empathy and sensitivity, both for your partner and yourself. Remember, everyone is doing the best they can. Once you get present to what’s happening in the moment, rather than thinking ahead or living in the past, honesty and appreciation for your togetherness can emerge. Brad Blanton’s Radical Honesty book can teach you more about how to get real and present.
3. You take responsibility for communicating your needs and desires to your partner. In an unconscious marriage, you cling to the childhood belief that your partner automatically intuits your needs. In a conscious marriage, you accept the fact that, in order to understand each other, you have to develop clear channels of communication.
Susan’s commentary: Our upcoming Relationship Magic ebook has over 80 different values that we humans want from our relationships. Once you get clear on exactly what you are in a relationship for — what feelings you want to feel in a partnership — you can begin to give your partner plenty of specifics about what keeps you happy in commitment. When you play the higher game of only wanting to do things that make you AND YOUR PARTNER happy, and you fulfill each other’s unique shortlist of values then, and only then, do you remove the pointless arguments and frustration at not getting what you want. When you wake up everyday and work your partner’s list of desires, and they do the same for you, magic happens.
4. You become more intentional in your interactions. In an unconscious marriage, you tend to react without thinking. You all the primitive response of your old brain to control your behavior. In a conscious marriage, you train yourself to behave in a more constructive manner.
Susan’s commentary: Using your manners, tending your partner’s heart, communicating your needs clearly, giving honest feedback all build deep love and trust. When you stop the blame game and pause, fill your heart with love and then respond with vulnerability and sensitivity, it up levels your whole way of relating. This is the way mature, rational, loving adults react. When you and your partner bring kindness into your communication, when you put your partner equal to your own needs, the sweetness melts hearts.
5. You learn to value your partner’s needs and wishes as highly as you value your own. In an unconscious marriage, you assume that your partner’s role in life is to take care of your needs magically. In a conscious marriage, you let go of this narcissistic view and divert more and more of your energy to meeting your partner’s needs.
Susan’s commentary: I suggest actively allowing yourself to feel more love for your partner every day. The heart is a muscle. Work it. Use it. Can you look at your partner and make your heart swell with love? Do you seek moments to give your lover affection? Do you pay attention to their accomplishments and vocally honor him or her for achievements? Do you express gratitude for them choosing to love you? Are you making regular deposits in the love karma bank? Did you know that you will feel more loved by actively expressing your love than you will from taking love in? Want to feel more love in your life? Start loving more people all day long.
6. You embrace the dark side of your personality. In a conscious marriage, you openly acknowledge the fact that you, like everyone else, have negative traits. As you accept responsibility for this dark side of your nature, you lessen your tendency to project your negative traits onto your mate, which creates a less hostile environment.
Susan’s commentary: This is not a license to be an emotional wreck. Keep yourself in check – handle your dark side with maturity and personal responsibility. Your negative mood impacts everyone in your home and work. You are at the helm of your emotions and your reactions to them. It’s ok to have “issues” as long as you are not only aware of them, but also managing and working through them so they hold less power over you over time.
7. You learn new techniques to satisfy your basic needs and desires. During the power struggle, you cajole, harangue, and blame in an attempt to coerce your partner to meet your needs. When you move beyond this stage, you realize that your partner can indeed be a resource for you – once you abandon your self-defeating tactics.
Susan’s commentary: Who knows you better than your partner? If you make it safe for them to reflect your behavior as a way to make you a stronger, happier individual, it creates marvelous space for personal growth together. With good intentions, you can support your partner in mellowing, evolving and blossoming.
8. You search within yourself for the strengths and abilities you are lacking. One reason you were attracted to your partner is that your partner had strengths and abilities you lacked. Therefore, being with your partner gave you an illusory sense of wholeness. In a conscious marriage, you learn that the only way you can truly recapture a sense of oneness is to develop the hidden traits within yourself.
Susan’s commentary: Dr. David Schnarch, author of Passionate Marriage says we must stand for ourselves within our marriage. Instead of fusing into one, by keeping ourselves distinct, it opens the space for true acceptance and togetherness. Intimacy increases when we continue to evolve ourselves positively and share those gains with our partner. “Ironically, intimacy seems to develop through conflict, self-validation, and unilateral disclosure.” – Schnarch Let go of expecting that you both will align on every issue similarly and celebrate your unique contributions. Rely on yourself and support your partner, rather than being an energy vampire who has to have your partner align with “your way.” Allow both “ways” to co-exist and take strength from your unique gifts.
9. You become more aware of your drive to be loving and whole and united with the universe. As a part of your God-given nature, you have the ability to love unconditionally and to experience unity with the world around you. Social conditioning and imperfect parenting made you lose touch with these qualities. In a conscious marriage, you begin to rediscover your original nature.
Susan’s commentary: Remember when you were a teenager and you had ideas about what it was going to be like when you got married? You’d have great sex, do fun things, be close and loving. . . Return to that. Create that. Everything you want is within you to co-create with your partner. Start sharing your dreams, your fantasies… Surprise your partner by fulfilling one of their fantasies. Love the stuffing out of your darling. Generate joy. Think of one thing you know your partner loves and make it happen every day and see what a transforming effect just that one act of kindness has on the joy and love you feel.
10. You accept the difficulty of creating a good marriage. In an unconscious marriage, you believe that the way to have a good marriage is to pick the right partner. In a conscious marriage you realize you have to be the right partner. As you gain a more realistic view of love relationships, you realize that a good marriage requires commitment, discipline, and the courage to grow and change; marriage is hard work.
Susan’s commentary: There is no “soul mate” out there for you. You create your soulmate by letting your partner know the exact things that will please you, and vice versa. It’s not “difficult” to create an off the hook delightful relationship when you focus on love, check yourself about your emotions and do the work to evolve yourself into a mature, loving partner. Conscious partnering, radical honesty, standing for yourself as an individual and actively loving yourself and your husband or wife is the most fulfilling life experience any human can have.
Please comment below on your personal struggles or on this wisdom.