Is Equality Important in Your Marriage? Part 2:
At our next appointment Scott and Karen said they were doing better in their marriage. They were spending more time together. They had begun to take walks early in the morning and were watching movies like they used to do.
Karen said, “In spite of our improvement there are still times when I don’t feel good about myself. I fall back into being submissive. I don’t like it when I do that. Is there something that I can do to help me with those times?”
“There is,” I replied. “Do you have a picture in your mind of you being assertive the way you want to be?” I asked. “Perhaps something you did recently?”
Karen thought for a moment. “I started managing our finances,” she said. “I offered to do the job following our last meeting to unburden Scott. He said it would be a big relief for him.”
“How do you feel when you’re doing the finances?” I asked.
“I feel great,” Karen said. “I feel really competent and in control. I know what I’m doing and I know I do it well. Our bills are all paid on time and we know exactly where we stand with our accounts. We are now better able to plan for the future.”
“What do you look like when you’re writing the checks and managing the books?” I asked.
Karen replied, “I’m sitting at my desk dressed in comfortable clothes. I’m focused. I feel in charge.”
“Good,” I said. “Are you smiling or looking serious?”
“I’m smiling,” Karen said, “because I know even if there’s a problem I will get it straightened out. It’s just a matter of taking the time to get all the figures.”
“What I want you to do right now,” I responded, “is to close your eyes and hold the image of you sitting tall in your chair, dressed comfortably, smiling and feeling completely competent and in charge of what you’re doing. Say to yourself: I am enough and I matter. I respect and approve of myself. God respects and approves of me unconditionally. I am competent and fully capable at whatever I do– like I am with managing our finances. As you go on repeating these affirmations breathe in peace and breathe out fear, breathe in serenity and breathe out worry and tension, breathe in approval and acceptance of yourself and breathe out doubt and anger.”
I had Karen repeat these affirmations a couple more times and then I said: “You can now open your eyes and tell me what that was like for you.”
“I feel great!” Karen said. “I could see myself just the way I want to be all the time. The breathing helped me get rid of my fear and feel strong and peaceful.”
“Any time you feel submissive or begin to doubt yourself,” I responded, “bring that image into your mind, do your breathing and repeat to yourself those affirmations.”
“Karen looks terrific,” Scott said. “I would like to do something like that for myself. When I get impatient I know I’m at my worst. I begin to rush around and it doesn’t feel good. At times like those I order people around and act superior.”
“When was a time recently, or in your more distant past, that you were calm and patient that made you feel really good about yourself,” I asked.
Scott laughed. “That happened just last week,” he said, “when Karen offered to take charge of our finances. I was so used to managing our money that at first the idea of letting Karen take it over actually scared me. I felt good about the fact that even though I felt scared I had collected myself within a few minutes. I caught myself feeling like I was better with our finances. Then I remembered that while Karen has not paid our bills or balanced our books in years, she managed our money very competently when we were first married before we had children. I took the books over when she was so busy with our kids. Remembering those facts calmed me. As I thought further I realized what a gift it would be to me to have her take on our finances.”
“Scott, I want you to close your eyes and picture yourself as you reassured yourself and became calm that Karen would do a good job,” I said. “See yourself feeling confident in your decision and more relaxed because of it. You are free from the responsibility of managing one more task. Instead of rushing and feeling like you are the only one who can do everything you are supposed to do, you appreciate how others can help you and how you can relax when you don’t feel so burdened. You are smiling, standing tall, walking slowly toward your destination. How are you dressed?” I asked.
“I’m relaxed at home in my favorite sweater and I’m looking out the window at our backyard. I see a beautiful dogwood tree in blossom and I feel as peaceful as its branches look with their white blossoms.”
“Keep the image in your mind of you standing tall and feeling relaxed and unburdened at the window as you say to yourself I am enough and I matter, I am peaceful and full of patience like the branches of the dogwood tree. I accept and approve of myself. God accepts and approves of me unconditionally. As you affirm yourself breathe in slowly and deeply taking in peace. As you breathe out exhale all your fear. Breathe in serenity and exhale tension. Breathe in patience and breathe out impatience. When you are feeling patient and calm you may open your eyes.”
Scott finished. When he opened his eyes the frown was gone from his forehead and he smiled broadly.
“I haven’t seen Scott look this relaxed in months,” Karen said.
As we concluded our meeting I said: “Now you each know what to do for your homework: picture the image of yourself as you want to be, breathe in peace and breathe out fear, and repeat your affirmations to yourself. Don’t stop until you are feeling the way you seek to feel.”
Both of them were smiling as they left.