Professor's House

Standing Your Ground in a Marriage

No doubt, marriage is difficult. When we first get married we are so in love that we imagine our partner will bend or lean to agree on everything and anything of importance. Unfortunately we are blinded by the ‘dopamine effect’ and are not actually living in an altruistic world. A few months or years after marriage settles in the dust and dirty remnants of our autonomic self begin seeping back through the cracks of the relationship. This is when we begin to run into trouble. Many of us wonder what in the world we were thinking when we married this person. Others feel helpless and hopeless. These are the time when standing your ground in a marriage becomes every important.

Disagreements are bound to arise. Whenever two people live together and begin to face life changing decision and situations there will always be a difference of opinions. Sometimes these differences are due to the way we were raised or preconceived notions of what we feel will and wont work. Other times one person in a marriage is so dead set on being right all the time that they can’t fathom or work out a problem without being so. No matter why they come up, each person has to participate wholly or risk losing a part of them selves. Once lost, resentment will set in and the relationship is forever doomed.

Standing your ground in marriage does not mean that you must insist on being right. It also doesn’t require that every decision in the ebb and flow of live shift our way. But it does mean that we should always be able to speak our mind and have our thoughts heard. Sometimes to be heard, you must listen first and most people don’t react well to being yelled at, intimidated or belittled for their opinion. There is always a happy medium.

Marriage is coupled with wires that are a sure bet to cause fires. Things like our children, the state of our finances, our homes, and our free time all resonate with the possibility to make or break our own personal happiness. Having them threatened by someone else can be frustrating and can make people feel like every little thing is a fight for their life. In a way it is. But once we are married we have to deal with the culmination of everything that our partner is. This translates into often agreeing to disagree. Giving in, or making an agreement premised on the ideals of compromise absolutely goes both ways and never indicates that one partner is not standing their ground. The trick is laying the feelings on the table, finding the compromise that works best and moving on. Without resentment and without compromising who you are as a person.

If we marry someone that drinks then we can or should expect drinking to ensue in our marriage. If we carry a guarded sense that the drinking is morally and incomprehensibly wrong, in truth we shouldn’t marry that person. People do not change much just because they got married. Standing your ground in a marriage would be verbalizing the problem and offering an ultimatum. Fortunately most of marital conflict is not based on things this serious or earth shattering. But both partners must be able to verbalize why and what they feel and which parts of the conflict they are not willing to compromise on. Normally there is plenty of middle ground to reach amicable solutions to problems and both partners can at least feel satiated.

Standing your ground in a marriage also entails remaining true to who you were before you got married. Unfortunately so many of us putting on acts and not really showing the breadth of our rue colors in the dating phase. Married, we feel free to do so. This can cause problems. Each person in a marriage has the right to set certain expectations and rule so to speak about what type of behavior or actions will or won’t be put up with. These rules have nothing to do with controlling what your spouse does, rather communicating things that mean very much to you. For instance, if your husband cusses in front of you and it is disheartening or taken as mean you should be able to verbalize your complaint, explaining why and how you feel and the cussing (at least in your presence) should stop. This is out of respect and love.

Since each person in this world has their own set of things that make them happy or other them there is no real way to know every ones little idiosyncrasies. Marriage brings them out. Marriage is often more about respect than it is love or sex. Respecting another person is a combination of accepting everything about them (whether you agree or not) and allowing them to flourish as a human being. When we fell safe in a marriage it is easy to stand our ground and hold on to the things that we feel are important. When we feel threatened or unsafe, standing our ground often comes across as quite simply a stubborn attempt to be right.

When issues arise, both partners need to take a moment and decide if they are arguing just t win, or if they are arguing because the circumstance calls for the ability to stick up for ourselves. Does this argument threaten self worth or will the end possibly leave one partner with resentment? Or is it simply about a competitive nature? If you are disagreeing about where to plant azaleas or on the right way to do laundry- chances are the argument is really about something else. Neither of these matter much and most people feel quite comfortable maintaining their position. But when the arguments are about things like who controls the money, how to discipline the kids or whose family gets the Christmas visit this year many more emotions are involved. This is when standing your ground comes in handy.

The flip side to learning to stand your ground is that it always shows that you are a person who demands to be respected. It asserts intelligence and security with the relationship. All of us should be in relationships in which we can say whatever comes to mind without worry that our spouse will leave us or do something horrific. Couples that can’t stand their ground out of fear definitely need to seek professional counseling. In a marriage, two equals join together to become a family. When two people are equals, standing your ground in the marriage is just part of a healthy and happy life together.

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