Miri shared with me that when and her boyfriend Moshe became serious, he gave her an ultimatum. He told her to either move in before marriage or to end the relationship. Miri said that when this decision was presented to her in this way, she saw only two options. She was completely shocked into submission. She admitted that she had been very smitten by David’s suave personality and good looks. At the age of 30 was frightened to lose him and start over. She made the decision to move in with him, going against her better judgment and desires.
What Miri didn’t realize was that this monumental decision would set the stage for the rest of their relationship and ultimately her marriage.
Rather than take the time to consider what was truly important to her when presented with a different perspective, she gave up on listening to herself because she was paralyzed by fear of losing the relationship. What Miri didn’t realize was that by dismissing her fear she was losing herself and even worse, feeling angry and resentful towards Moshe for making this and other important decisions. She had even convinced herself that her husband was controlling, without realizing that she had given her control away.
Often how a relationship starts is how it will continue if both parts of the couple are not aware of the dynamic of the relationship. Miri spent the better part of her 20 year relationship shrouded in a mask. Putting on a happy front, but pushing her actual feelings and needs aside. Over time, Moshe’s respect for her eroded so significantly that he left her for another woman.
Sadly, this is something that happens to many people who feel scared of standing up for themselves. They wrongly believe that if they actually take a stand, they may end up losing love. What happens in actual fact when we don’t listen to ourselves and stand up for what we really want is that we lose self-respect and begin to believe that we aren’t worthy of it. The message we subconsciously transmit to those around us when we don’t stand strongly behind our convictions is, “I don’t really matter,” or “Your opinion is more worthy than mine”.
The only way to break free from living behind a mask is to first become aware of and take responsibility for your part in the relationship dynamic. You also need to feel the discomfort of not living in your own skin and not feeling strong enough to offer your own opinions. Once you can come to terms with how you feel about living behind someone else’s decisions, and realize that you have been allowing someone else to make decisions for you, only then will you be able to reclaim your power and shift the dynamic so that you can find a happy medium that works best for both you and your partner.
If you are not yet in a relationship and you fear standing up for your thoughts, feelings, beliefs and opinions:
- Ask yourself what is holding you back from stating your convictions? Did someone make you feel that your opinions had little value?
- Were decisions always made for you, so that you never had an opportunity to make decisions?
- Did you make some poor decisions that led you to believe that others’ opinions are more worthy than your own?
If you are married and you struggle to express yourself to your partner:
- Ask yourself what stops you from being able to stand up for yourself in the relationship: Are you scared of losing your partner if your opinions differ?
- Are you afraid of feeling belittled by your partner?
- Are you scared of making decisions that will be detrimental to the relationship?
Whether you are single or married, the key to creating and sustaining a healthy relationship is having two strong individuals that can feel confident in their beliefs and convictions, yet can also create space for alternative opinions. When we allow ourselves to hold on to our fear of losing ourselves and combine this with the belief that everyone has a valid opinion, we can state our opinion clearly and with conviction, while hearing the other and arrive at decisions and conclusions that work for everyone involved.