“Most women feel they can not renegotiate the unwritten marriage contract.” Louann Brizandine, M.D.
It really is only within our long-term relationships where we are challenged to navigate the delicate zone of intimacy. Which means balancing our need for both separateness (often referred to as the “I”) and connectedness (the “we”) inside the relationship.
Personally, I hate most unity candle traditions at weddings.
You’ve seen it: the two individuals getting married are each holding their own lighted candle and they slowly light the wick of the unity candle simultaneously. All to represent the beginning of this new version of their life together. That part is lovely. The unfortunate part is when they then blow out their individual candles.
I want to yell: “Noooooooo!” (But of course, I don’t.)
You can be both an individual (represented by the singular candle) AND part of a couple (represented by the unity candle). I would argue you have to be both in order to make it feel good long-term.
When you get married, if you lose your individuality in order to be swallowed alive by what the marriage needs, what the family needs, or what you think the perfect, self-sacrificing wife and mother “should do,” you are slowly betraying yourself.
For a good part of your life, it felt good to orient your existence around the people you loved the most. In many ways, it came naturally.
Until it started to feel different. Depleting. Exhausting. Unfair.
This usually occurs around the age of 50, when we start to wonder, “When is it MY turn? What about what I want for my life? What about me?”
But no one around you actually wants to hear that, because they all benefited from you consistently abandoning yourself in favor of their needs and wants.
We won’t blame our children; it’s not their fault. We brought them into this world, so it’s our responsibility to take care of them.
But we will blame our spouses. We will blame them for not making US a priority the same way we made THEM a priority all those years.
In all my years of study about the distinct differences between men and women…this is one situation that almost every single one of my clients feels deeply. It causes a great deal of resentment in the relationship.
Men don’t abandon themselves in favor of others because they were never taught to do that the same way girls and women were taught to do.
Little boys were taught that their needs mattered.
They never un-learned this as they grew into grown men.
- Did you know that little girls take turns 20x more often than boys?*
- Did you know that girls begin to avoid conflict and actively preserve harmony in their relationships by the time they are 2 years old? Young boys aren’t concerned about conflict; in fact, competition is part of their make-up.*
- Did you know that little girls usually use collaborative language by starting their sentences with “let’s” (“Let’s play house”), while little boys use more commanding language (“Give me that ball.”)?*
It seems perfectly logical to blame your husband for the fact that you feel like you’ve given everything of yourself, while he hasn’t had to abandon anything in order to share this life with you and the family.
But it’s not the full truth.
If we want to place blame, we can blame the estrogen in our brains. As well as the societal pressures that lead women to feel like we’ve had to consistently betray ourselves over and over again for the sake of others’ needs.
But once we’ve placed the blame on something we can’t control, we’re left feeling disempowered. Instead, I would invite you to now realize that you can change this any time you want:
You can rewrite the rules of what your marriage needs to look like for the BOTH of you to be fulfilled.
It can (and frankly, should) look different than what you agreed to all those years ago. What you wanted in your 20s and 30s is not the same thing that you desire in your 40s and 50s.
Are you ready to re-write the rules in your own life and marriage?
I’m ready to help you. Here’s where you can take your next step.
*Source: The Female Brain, Louann Brizendine, M.D.