A few years ago, I wrote, “a great marriage is made up of two people who consistently put their vows before their feelings.”
I have since changed my mind.
Sometime last year, a reader asked if I still stood by the statement above. My answer: there’s a lot I wish I could unsay because I’ve said and written things I don’t believe in anymore.
As far as this statement is concerned, I can picture a harmful spouse absolutely loving the quote and promptly dispatching it to their spouse.
Their pitch being their partner isn’t doing enough (“is not being led by their vows”) and is being irrational (is “being led by her feelings.”)
Someone married to a harmful person would read the quote and be doubly stressed, feeling they haven’t focused sufficiently on their marital commitment (vow).
They’d double down, yet again attempt to ignore the truth their body and mind are telling them, that something is wrong with their relationship.
When I wrote that quote (I’ve been blogging for 10+ years), my goal was to encourage both spouses to remember their commitment to each other and the responsibility that comes with it. The problem was I “encouraged” them to do so via suppressing and ignoring their emotions.
Emotions in Marriage
In his book “Attached to God,” Krispin Mayfield writes:
“Our emotions drive us in many ways and hold much more power over our behavior than our linear, systematic thoughts do. When we try to suppress our emotions to get close to God, we have to shut down a big part of who we’ve been created to be, as well as how we connect with and learn about God. We end up with a list of theological beliefs that don’t fully engage the whole of who we are.”
While Krispin is discussing our attachment styles and their influence on our relationship with God, I believe it works the same way in a marriage relationship.
When we try to suppress our emotions to get close to our spouse, we have to shut down a big part of who we’ve been created to be.
Indeed, if you’re in a healthy marriage (mutual, honoring, respectful, loyal, empathetic), we can talk about regulating and co-regulating. We can talk about attunement and de-escalation. We can talk about that healthy interdependence if that’s what a situation calls for.
But my statement was general, with no caveats (none that I can recall) or nuanced explanation.
Emotions in Marriage: Bottom line
I could have found a better way to encourage critical thinking without crucifying emotions. (I didn’t know better then.)
A healthy relationship with a spouse requires we sit with ALL of ourselves, not just parts of ourselves. Our vow (covenant/commitment) is necessary, and we honor that. But our emotions are also part of us, and must be honored as well.
Healthy relationships require curiosity, a gentle growing awareness of our feelings and thoughts, and how we’re interacting with the environment around us.
We sit with our emotions; we explore and allow them to usher us to a more authentic place. Critical thinking + emotions: a healthy marriage is both.
So here’s what I’d write today. “A great marriage is made up of two people who consistently honor their vows and their feelings.”
More Fixed It For You’s
Do you love “Fixed It For You’s”? I’ve done a few on my Facebook page, but Sheila Gregoire of Bare Marriage is the queen of helping people see the toxic teachings and understand why they’re so bad and need to be fixed! And she just did a whole book!
In the book, you’ll get 30 Fixed It For Yous , over 180 discussion questions, discernment prompts, scripture that points us back to Jesus, and more! I got my copy yesterday and enjoying it! Check it out!