Deeply and Completely
When researchers look into what makes for effective psychotherapy, they find that the technique matters less than three qualities of the therapist: genuineness, empathy, and unconditional positive regard. When we bring those qualities into the therapy room, our clients are able to begin to accept themselves, and from that place, to gain resilience and find themselves solving their problems, or being less troubled by them. These qualities inform all good relationships, and provide a key to the question, How to have a healthy marriage that lasts.
Genuineness, Empathy, and Unconditional Positive Regard
I wrote recently about attachment style; babies who have secure attachment have moms who are responsive, and demonstrate these same three qualities. The pattern holds for every significant relationship. How much better do we feel when our loved ones are “real” with us, offer us empathy, and love us no matter what?
Interestingly, most of us (except for the narcissists of the world) are kinder to other people than we are to ourselves. But when push gets to shove, we will be as unkind to others as we are to ourselves. When our buttons are pushed, we can get mean. And our romantic relationships, with all their fraught vulnerability, provide us with the best opportunity to have our buttons pushed, and act with unkindness to our partner–the very one whom we promise to love the most.
In order to create truly peaceful and loving relationships, we need to create more peaceful and loving relationship with ourselves. The outer relationship we experience is a reflection of the inner relationship we have within ourselves.
How do we create a more loving relationship with ourselves?
How to have a happy marriage that lasts
We have to start with ourselves. Below are five strategies to help shift our relationship with ourselves. We can use a “top-down” approach, effortfully changing our thinking in order to change our inner workings. There are also “bottom-up” approaches that are geared at shifting the inner processes in order to shift how we think about ourselves. I have found that a blend of these is powerful in creating the changes we seek.
A cognitive strategy is to begin by noticing our inner critic and gently redirecting it. We can take the position that it is trying to protect us. We can tell it that we don’t really need that kind of protection. Then we can shift to a more self-accepting interpretation of whatever we were criticizing ourselves us about.
We can practice a loving-kindness meditation, in which we send ourselves grace despite our faults. This acceptance is predicated on the fundamental understanding that we are all flawed. Loving ourselves anyway gives us space to heal the flaws and to grow.
We can also recite a mantra, “I deeply and completely accept myself in spite of all my flaws and limitations.” Try repeating this three to five times in a row, several times a day.
We can amp up the power of the mantra if we add an Energy Psychology meridian stimulating exercise. To do this, simply place your hand over your heart as if saying the Pledge. Where your fingertips fall is generally the area of the neurolymphatic reflex point (which is good to know, and good to massage next time you think you are catching a cold. It also helps rewire our energy feedback system.) Massage this area in a clockwise (as if you were facing yourself) direction while repeating the mantra. Most people I’ve worked with can really feel themselves calm down when they do this.
A beautiful, and powerful, meditation is helpful. In this meditation, we send appreciation to each body part, organ, system, limb, face ― all of it. Then we send appreciation to the parts of our consciousness including our inner child, our ego, and even our critic.
We will only be as kind to others as we are to ourselves
The most important thing is to recognize that we will only be as kind to others as we are to ourselves. We are all flawed, and still doing the best we can, even when the result is not very good. This is how we learn and grow. Yet in order to really give and receive unconditional love, we need to practice sending some to ourselves. When we are wondering how to have a healthy marriage that lasts, it is important to remember to start with ourselves.
The results are worth it.