In his presentation, “The Essential Humility of Marriage,” Terry D. Hargrave, PhD, author of a book by the same name, defines marriage as “a separate entity…a living, breathing relationship that is as real as the two individuals that form the bond.” This separate relationship paradoxically contains the individuals while simultaneously nurturing each person’s unique needs and those created by the union.
Most individuals choose to be together out of regard, respect and love for the other, but some partnerships evolve in a way that one or both individuals sacrifice “self” for the sake of the union. The individuals’ uniqueness fades at the expense of their union, resulting in an increasingly painful existence for both partners. The person with whom one chose to create a partnership seems to have vanished.
This vanishing act can result from beliefs we learned in earlier relationships in our lives, our families, for example, and can contribute unwittingly to the erroneous belief that we cannot maintain our individuality and still be part of a union.
At one extreme our families may have insisted on “perfection” or utter compliance or may have been chaotic and insecure. If our families’ system of interactions approached either end of this continuum, we likely missed out on some important life lessons essential for mature relationships, how to maintain and nurture our individual selves at the same time we nurture our partnership.
If we have missed out on those life lessons, our union may be adversely affected because:
- others’ opinions and feelings seem more important than our own.
- we hesitate to express our own opinions and feelings.
- we seem to be our own worst critic.
- we blame our partners for our unhappiness.
- we struggle to trust our own thoughts and feelings, and are unable to get close to and trust others.
The effects of such behaviors can create havoc and insecurity in our adult relationships and undermine the potential for growing our relationship. The paradox is that individuals who adhere to the belief that a partnership only survives if they sacrifice their individuality find themselves without a sense of what made them uniquely lovable and valuable to the relationship in the first place. Ultimately both the partnership and individuals suffer.
To read Terry Hargraves’ speech go to: http://www.cmfce.com/hargrave.html
Cheryle Jones Andrews, M.Ed.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist