It is not fear that stops you from doing the brave and true thing in your daily life. Rather, the problem is avoidance. You want to feel comfortable so you avoid doing or saying the thing that will evoke fear and other difficult emotions. Avoidance will make you feel less vulnerable in the short run but, it will never make you less afraid.
Marriage is the lightning rod that absorbs anxiety and stress from all other sources, past and present. When marriage has a firm foundation of solid friendship and mutual respect, it can tolerate a fair amount of raw emotion. A good fight can clear the air, and it's nice to know we can survive conflict and even learn from it. Many couples, however, get trapped in endless rounds of fighting and blaming that they don't know how to get out of. When fights go unchecked and unrepaired, they can eventually erode love and respect, which are the bedrock of any successful relationship.
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Anger is a tool for change when it challenges us to become more of an expert on the self and less of an expert on others. . . .If, however, we do not use our anger to define ourselves clearly in every important relationship we are in--and manage our feelings as they arise--no one else will assume this responsibility for us.
While women once acquired relationship skills to "hook," "snare," or "catch" a husband who would provide access to economic security and social status, the position of contemporary women has not changed that radically. Much of our success still depends on our attunement to "male culture," our ability to please men, and our readiness to conform to the masculine values of our institutions.
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Request an apology when you believe you deserve one, but don't get in a tug of war about it. Instead, be a role model and tender a genuine apology yourself when an apology is due. Your willingness to apologize can be contagious and models maturity for your partner. Also, your non-apologizing partner may use a nonverbal way to reconnect after a fight, defuse the tension, or show you he's in a new place and wants to repair a disconnection. Accept the olive branch however it's offered.
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If you're married to an entrenched non-apologizer, it won't help to doggedly demand one. Some folks lack the self-esteem required to take responsibility for their less than honorable behaviors, feel remorse, and offer a heartfelt apology. And many people are so hard on themselves for the mistakes they make, they don't have the emotional room to admit vulnerability and apologize to a partner.
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If you exchanged wedding vows, tape them to your bathroom mirror and read them aloud to yourself every morning along with the ritual brushing of teeth. It's not realistic to believe that you will live your promises as a daily practice -- unless you're a saint or a highly evolved Zen Buddhist. Not where marriage is concerned. But you can make a practice of returning to your vows when the going gets rough.
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Many people value criticism in the early stage of a relationship, but become allergic to it over time. Remember this: No one can survive in a marriage (at least not happily) if they feel more judged than admired. Your partner won't make use of your constructive criticism if there's not a surrounding climate of admiration and respect.
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We're vulnerable to repeating history, especially if we don't know what's driving us. For example, it may be a family tradition to marry someone with addiction problems, or who is an injured bird in need of caretaking. Or, you may be drawn to guys who remind you of your distant, unavailable father -- or your ill-tempered mother -- with the unconscious belief that you can take an old story, and through the power of your love, give it a new, happy ending.
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Relationships are most likely to fail when we don't address problems or hold our partner accountable for unfair or irresponsible behavior ... the ability to clarify our values, beliefs, and life goals--and then to keep our behavior congruent with them--is at the heart of a solid marriage.
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We begin to change the dynamic of our relationships as we are able to share our reactions to others without holding them responsible for causing our feelings, and without blaming ourselves for the reactions that other people have in response to our choices & actions. We are responsible for our own behavior and we are not responsible for other people's reactions; nor are they responsible for ours.
Throughout evolutionary history, anxiety and fear have helped every species to be wary and to survive. Fear can signal us to act, or, alternatively, to resist the impulse to act. It can help us to make wise, self-protective choices in and out of relationships where we might otherwise sail mindlessly along, ignoring signs of trouble.
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The term girl not only serves to avoid certain anxiety-arousing connotations inherent in the word woman regarding aggression, sexuality, and reproduction, it also serves to impart a tone of frivolousness and lack of seriousness to ambitious, intellectual, and competitive striving that women may pursue.
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Anger is neither legitimate nor illegitimate, meaningful nor pointless. Anger simply is. To ask, "Is my anger legitimate?" is similar to asking, "Do I have the right to be thirsty? After all, I just had a glass of water fifteen minutes ago. Surely my thirst is not legitimate. And besides, what's the point of getting thirsty when I can't get anything to drink now, anyway?" Anger is something we feel. It exists for a reason and always deserves our respect and attention. We all have a right to everything we feel--and certainly our anger is no exception.
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