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A lot of the growth I have experienced this year has come in the pressure cooker of a new marriage.  I thought we had worked through most of our issues while dating, but we discovered some very powerful new issues that dragged us through some painful and scary periods. Marriage is like new exercises that stretch muscles you never knew you had. 

 

If you’ve picked up on how we relate, you know we never avoid issues, but face them squarely.  It is much safer, easier, and more pleasant to find out what causes sparks and detour your relationship around those bumps and potholes, and perhaps for some folks and to some extent that is necessary, but it’s not our approach.  If something hurts or frustrates or upsets me, I tell Berly what I feel.  I try to share it in a way that does not blame her or make her responsible for my feelings.  She does the same with me.

 

That goes well enough unless it connects with one of our significant issues, then we struggle for hours as we talk through our pain and fear.  We both feel unfairly blamed and can barely stand to hear what the other one has to say.  We each try to justify our position and defend ourselves against the strong voices of shame inside our own heads that distort all that we say to and hear from one another.  We hate tension in relationships, and have often resolved conflicts by acquiescing to the shame others have attributed to our actions.  To escape my own self-loathing, I have also often shamed others into admitting their fault.   We both know this self-shaming approach to conflict resolution is ultimately harmful to each of us and our relationship.  The answer is in grace, not in shame.

 

For the first hour of these tense discussions, we feel awful as we explain ourselves to each other and do our best to avoid blaming.  We listen as best we can, try to lower our guards slowly, and offer sympathy and understanding as we are able.  As we talk, our emotions go from red alert to orange to yellow.  We can hear more sympathetically and speak more compassionately.  After 4 or 5 hours of talking, we understand ourselves and each other at a new level.  We recognize the source of our fears and shame and offer ourselves and one another grace.  This particular emotional issue will never have the same degree of stress for either of us.  We carry this newly discovered grace into similar conflicts in our other relationships as well.

 

Sometimes, for one reason or another, we can’t find our way into freedom and some tension will be carried from day to day between us as we make repeated efforts at reaching understanding and embracing grace.  We always find a way through.  We have made it over so much rough terrain since May with consistent grace offered that we feel much safer with each other and have found substantial healing from our fear and shame.  We seem to be in a different place in our relationship.  It feels to me like we have scaled the mountains and now only face foothills ahead, though I’m guessing we still have some mountains to face.  Our relationship feels better, more stable, more safe, more deep, more supportive than it ever has.

 

May all of you find a new taste of grace in your life today,

J

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Posted February 4, 2008 by janathangrace in Uncategorized

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