*FREE* Pre-Engagement Counseling E-course- 5 Things You Need to Know Before You Get Married, Installment #4

In the last installment of our *FREE* Pre-Engagement Counseling E-course- 5 Things You Need to Know Before You Get Married, you learned about the Imago dialogue and how it is a valuable tool to create safe connection in your relationship. This installment of the pre-engagement counseling ecourse will discuss the 4th thing you need to know before you get married, the fear/shame dynamic.

Pre-engagement counseling Ecourse Lesson #4: The Fear/Shame Dynamic

Before you start that dialogue that you learned about last week, there is a crucial piece of information that you need to know about gender differences. What would you say in the following scenario: Picture a homeless man on the street. What would be most difficult for him? Would it be similar for a homeless woman? According to the book, How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About it by Drs Patricia Love and Steven Stosny, studies show that while men and women both fear homelessness equally, they do so in different ways. If you were to ask a woman, her main fears would be harm, isolation, and deprivation. Most men would say that the most difficult part would be feeling like a failure. While safety may be an issue for men, the utter shame of being on the street, unemployed, etc… is the primary concern.

Becoming Conscious of Each Other’s Triggers

This gender distinction is key to establishing and maintaining connection in marriages. Men must be conscious not to trigger their wives’ fears and women must be conscious not to shame their husbands. This comes up quite often around career. If a man is struggling to find a career path, is dissatisfied at work, or even unemployed, this can be very scary for women who are relying on their husband to support. At the same time it can be a shameful experience for men in that position. (This is especially common with newly married couples as they are often on the younger end and not always established in their careers. Many newly married couples are still in school and some may not have even made up their mind about career aspirations. This can be a recipe for disaster when money becomes tight.)

I have heard numerous stories from couples where male shame is exacerbated by female fear around employment issues and vice versa. In fact, fear and shame become a cycle where her anxiety causes his shame and his shame causes her anxiety. The only way to break this vicious cycle is to be attentive to each other’s vulnerability.

The Dangers of Talking

Another classic example of a potentially shame producing setting is talking about the relationship. While many women feel that talking helps them feel better, men dread it. This is why many men do not want to come for marriage counseling. They aren’t “good at” expressing their emotions and talking about their feelings. Therefore, a counseling setting can be a shaming experience for a man, turning a seemingly benign encounter into yet another opportunity to fail. When couples come to see me, I often remind them to avoid blaming language in sessions. I will tell the “blaming” spouse- he really wants to hear what you have to say and understand you so that you can improve your connection. He is going to have a hard time if he feels he is being accused or criticized and will feel even more disconnected. Try sharing your feelings in a way where you take ownership.

But What about the dialogue? Didn’t we learn in the last installment of the pre-engagement counseling ecourse that it can help with staying connected even during a difficult issue?

The main purpose of the dialogue is a vehicle to connect safely, what we all so deeply desire in a relationship. Talking is a means towards connection but is not an end in and of itself.

Summary of what you learned in Lesson 4 of the Pre-Engagement Counseling Ecourse

  • The vicious cycle of the fear/shame continuum
  • Become conscious of your spouse’s triggers and stop the cycle
  • Talking can be difficult for men and exacerbate conflict
  • The purpose of the dialogue is safe connection

I hope you’ve enjoyed lesson #4 of The Pre-Engagement Counseling E-course. If you need more assistance with your engagement and want to make sure you have all the tools necessary for your upcoming marriage, please don’t hesitate to call 443-570-7598.