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People frequently complain to me about their marriages.
They tell me secrets they would NEVER tell anyone else.
Don’t get me wrong, I love it.
(If you’re unhappy in your marriage, and you reach out to me, that means we’re moving in the right direction.)
Today I want to share with you an important pattern I’ve noticed during these with hundreds of frustrated, disconnected, and unhappy couples.
They all want the same thing…
I know this, because the way they talk about their marriage often sounds like a prison.
“I feel trapped…”
“I feel stuck…”
They feel like they’re at the mercy of a disengaged, or unpleasable partner…
“He doesn’t ever help with anything. I feel like I’m his mother, or his maid.”
“I can never do anything right. Even when I do my best to give her what she wants, she’s still unhappy.”
My heart breaks when I hear the desperate stories of a lonely partner who just wants to be set free from their prison, and feel that deep connection they once felt.
Inevitably the conversation takes a turn… typically with the same question.
“What do I do?”
The answer is ALWAYS the same:
Freedom from pain, tyranny, and misery always comes with a heavy price.
The price is personal responsibility.
Wherever freedom exists, someone, somewhere has taken responsibility for a problem, an injustice, or the suffering of others.
Harriet Tubman made 13 trips to the south through the Underground Railroad to free over 70 slaves.
She made their freedom her responsibility.
Maya Moore (a WNBA star) recently stepped away from her basketball career at the peak of her success to help exonerate Jonathan Irons – a man who’s been wrongfully imprisoned for the past 20 years.
Maya stepped up and made herself responsible for righting a wrong that she did not commit.
Healthcare workers all over the world are putting themselves at risk to take responsibility for the wellbeing of sick people everywhere.
I witness that sacrifice every week as my 7-months-pregnant wife puts on her maternity scrubs, and spends 13 hours a day, 3-4 days per week on her feet, running from room to room, caring for patients.
And I see the tears, anger, and anxiety she experiences when she comes home exhausted and angry at people on social media who refuse to protect themselves and those they love.
She knows that their lack of responsibility will inevitably put more responsibility and pressure on her and her coworkers… who are already near a breaking point.
Responsibility is hard.
And ultimately, if you’re feeling trapped, stuck, or imprisoned in your marriage, you have two choices:
- Wait for someone else to take responsibility for changing your marriage
- Step up and take responsibility yourself
What does that look like?
Well, to start, you’ve gotta be REALLY honest with yourself. You need to carefully consider, and take responsibility for the choices you’ve made that created your current situation.
That type of honesty is never easy.
When you peel back the layers and stare the truth in the face, it can be incredibly painful.
I’ve seen women who were absolutely furious at their childish and irresponsible husband.
That fury transformed into tears when these women realized that they had contributed to their husband’s childlike behavior by treating him like a child…
These amazing women didn’t know how to deal with the inherent anxiety and worry that comes up when you have to truly trust someone else to help you get things done.
Trust can be scary!
It was much easier to micromanage, nag, and complain about their husbands when things were done “wrong way” until, eventually, their husbands decided, “If every effort I make results in disappointment, why even try?”
Ooof… that’s a heavy truth to face.
I’ve seen husbands hang their heads in shame when they realized that they’d spent decades focused so much on work that they completely missed the opportunity to forge a relationship with their wife or kids.
“We’ll go on a date next weekend,” and… “I’ll make it to the next game,” turned into the dread of realizing the people they love most in the world look at them like a stranger.
Or husbands who realized that they have been objectifying their wives for years… Using them as a maid, a chef, and a sex doll without ever stopping to ask what their desires, interests, or dreams are.
A piece of them dies inside when they realize how cruel and selfish they’ve been.
Or maybe someone simply realizes that they should have said, “No! The way this relationship is headed is not ok with me,” a LONG time ago.
The truth can be incredibly harsh.
But this is the first step on the path back to connection, deep meaning, profound purpose, joy… and freedom.
The next step?
Make a different choice.
Take responsibility for the words you use, and the tone you use to convey them.
Take responsibility for asking for what you want, and holding firm to your righteous desires.
Take responsibility for your past mistakes. Apologize for them. Ask what you can do to make them right.
Take responsibility for breaking the negative cycles that you perpetuate – with your partner… or inside your own head.
Take responsibility for your weaknesses, flaws, and insecurities. And seek help to improve them.
The path to freedom is simple… but it is NOT easy.
And it’s also why the divorce rate is so high…
“Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.”
– Sigmund Freud
One last thing.
I know taking responsibility is scary.
But one of the most beautiful things about it is that when you choose to pick up a heavy burden and bear it willingly, it gives your life a deep sense of meaning.
It transforms you.
It chips away at your weaknesses.
It makes you humble, and grateful, and compassionate.
It makes you better.
The work that comes with earning your freedom – whether in marriage, or any other aspect of life – is ultimately the thing that forges your true character.
Don’t look at your impending freedom as a burden. Look at it as an opportunity.
It will change your life.
This post was previously published on Growthmarriage.com.
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