Every single day we make a hundred little and big decisions. These can affect us in small and large ways. In psychology there is this idea of "KEY DECISIONS" meaning, decisions we made at one point in time that have a huge impact on our life from that moment forward. Today I wanted to talk about Key Decisions in the context of marriage and partnership.
Here's what I've been learning in my Coaching Certification about Key Decisions:
"Sometimes people make key decisions early in childhood to repress and block certain areas of their personality and to focus on developing others. What may work in order to survive in childhood often becomes obsolete in adult life and interferes with every relationship. A man might decide as a boy that boys don’t cry, and in blocking his tears might block all his vulnerability and sensitivity. When it’s time to be sensitive to his wife and his children, he may not be able to do it. A little girl may stand up to her abusive father and refuse to acknowledge that she’s hurt. As a woman, she may be a strong, caring mother, but she may not be able to be vulnerable and loving in a sexual, erotic way with her husband. Often, decisions that are made early in childhood persist into adulthood, long after they have become obsolete, and interfere with our relationships and our happiness.
Key decisions made in early life may have positive consequences, such as the decision to be brave, to persist, or to accomplish. Yet sometimes even the most positive key decisions may result in rejecting important parts of our identity. Sometimes the key decision has only negative consequences and persists through adult life even though it has no apparent value."
-Bigger Impact on your life
-Usually made under stress
-Usually forced by someone or something
-Made when you’re not ready to make a decision
-Your decision usually means cutting off other options
Four Qualities That Make These Decisions so Powerful
1. The earlier the decision the more powerful
2. The more urgent the circumstances, the more influential the decision
3. Key Decisions set a precedence to how you will respond to similar situations down the road
4. Key Decisions are reinforced with repetition and reward
How to explore your Key Decision:
What is the decision you made?
If you're having a hard time figuring it out ask yourself some of these questions:
Who's love did I crave the most?
Mothers or Fathers (or another caretaker)
What did I have to do or who did I have to be to get their love?
Did you have to shut off your emotions, be strong, be religious, be happy, be mom, be a caretaker, shut off your own needs to take care of others?
How did my siblings react to the same thing?
Sometimes how the siblings respond to the parents can affect how you respond.
How did your father treat your mother and visa versa?
Was your mother cherished and loved by your father? Was your father respected and cherished by your mother?
Once you discover the Key Decision you want to explore list off some of the current repercussions. When we associate our Key Decision with negative repercussions in the here and now we can decide on a new decision to replace the old one that is no longer needed for our survival.
Key Decision: Became emotionally shut off in reaction to an abusive and dominating father.
What would have happened if you made the opposite Decision: He would have made fun of me.
What Purpose Did it Serve: Protection
Repercussions: I am unable to emotionally connect and be vulnerable with my husband and children. Lost her beautiful, strong femininity.
New Options: These first two are to show you responses that are not helpful. #3 is the best way to approach a key decision.
1. Normalize a Key Decision: we're prone to defending the decision.
2. Reject the Decision that they themselves made, be haunted by it, never get used to it.
3. Educate themselves about the decision they made and look at the options. They have compassion for why they made that decision and then make a plan. Remember that Key Decisions are very entrenched.
What part of myself have I been neglecting because of this Key Decision: What was another way I could have responded to the situation?
UNCONSCIOUS KEY DECISIONS:
Sometimes you receive a major shock or trauma and unconsciously
make a key decision. You brain looks for an explanation for why something happened. Anytime you have that kind of shock the brain makes a unconscious key decision and thinks “whatever happened right before the shock is not okay.”
As I mentioned above there are many ways Key Decisions can affect a marriage or partnership.
A woman makes a key decision to turn off emotionally and become "strong". Which means she never opens up emotionally/sexually to her husband.
A man might make the same key decision, like mentioned above, and shut off emotionally which means he can't be vulnerable emotionally/sexually with his wife. His children will also feel misunderstood and he may pass on these traits.
A woman makes a key decision to be an individual who does what she wants because of being smothered by her mother, who expected her to be a certain person and do what she wanted her to do in life. She is therefore unable to collaborate with her husband and feels smothered with the slightest bit of "criticism" from the another person. "you can't tell me what to do" She can become reckless and risky in order to be autonomous.
Is there an area in your relationship that you want to change? Is there a Key Decision associated with the way you act or the way you're closed off? What does your partner do that triggers you? What part of yourself are you holding back out of fear?
The more we understand about our partners past and why they respond and act the way they do the more we can grow and make new decisions that benefit the individual and relationship.
I encourage everyone to Dance as a form of therapy. This can re-connect us with an emotional, feminine, raw side of our self. If opening up emotionally is hard for you, reckless dancing is always a good place to start. It helps you reconnect with YOU.
Marriage, to me, is a spiritual journey. It carves at the edges of our soul, scraping and probing the deepest parts, at times, without mercy. Love and romance are cultivated and maintained, not effortless. Some moments are grotesque and sad, others are drug-like highs filled with admiration. We journey back to our childhood in marriage. We re-visit old wounds, the ways in which we were loved and the ways in which we were neglected. We try and braid our beliefs together like wriggling snakes, wiley and untamed. Patience becomes of utmost importance and our limits are stretched again and again.
We see things in our partner that we tried to escape and yet we chose it for ourselves. Why? It is the spiritual journey of marriage, to allow our wounds to be exposed, to hurt one another in order to learn how to grow. My wounds become the teachers. They are meant for me to heal and my partner to grow. When he re-opens them, unintentionally, and I lash out, it is in that intense moment that we both realize the weight of things. We realize that I need to heal and he needs to grow. And together we dance through these moments, in fear, frustration and anger. We rip things wide open in order to sew them up for good. We must be aware of the wounds if we are going to heal. We must be aware of our partners wounds if we are going to rise to the occasion of helping them heal, by our growing.
Marriage is a challenge to selfishness. The more selfish the individual, the more corrupt the marriage. We find that the more we give to one another, the more we are filled up. I give to him, he gives to me, instead of looking out for our own interests we focus on each others and care for one another.
It’s about making sure our negative thoughts about our partner don’t outweigh the positive. Some of us are more prone to being critical of others, which I have lived in the past. This is not a beautiful lifestyle. It hurts to feel that way all the time. It hurts you and it hurts those around you. In marriage, criticalness can destroy the relationship through tiny pinpricks of degradation. It’s like a rock turned into sand by the ocean, it might take a long time to fall apart but the journey itself lacks in luster.
Why wouldn’t we attempt to have the most epic beautiful relationship we could muster? Why wouldn’t we dive into life partnership as a way to grow and thrive?
Is it hard? Yes. Is it daily effort? Yes. Is it bad ass? Yes. The things that require the most work yield the most epic results. Speaking from 8 years of experience, I have traveled through the wounds of my childhood with Johnny, being re-hurt, re-wounded, but because he is honest, true and constantly in pursuit of that which is best, we have both journeyed through it into a new territory. One that contains an exceptional amount of understanding for one another.
It is because of these things that we find ourselves with an obsession for growth and facilitating that for others. It is because of these things that we write this book. There are thousands of marriage and relationship books out there. But how many are written by young couples in pursuit of the epic? How many evoke healing from the get go instead of waiting till things build up. How many remind us that the decision to marry is a decision to step onto a landmine that may destroy us. But as the phoenix rises from the ashes or the fire-weed grows after a wildfire to heal the land, so can the reckless, messy, epic, life changing, bad ass relationship between two humans that surpasses any relationship on earth. We need to start seeing our partnerships like this, instead of the “ball and chain”. No one wants to be imprisoned. Marriage should set you free. And not the you that you’ve created for society, but the you that you diminished and hid from view. The one that screams out freedom and dances with no shame. Your partner is going to hurt you but they can also be the one to set you free.