Insecurity & Instability: How We Destroy Our Marriages

 What ruins relationships and causes most fights is insecurity.

-Olivia Wilde

Love shouldn’t be about jealousy or anything like that.  It should be about commitment and being able to trust that person.  If you can’t have that from the get-go, there’s a problem.

-Aaron Carter

My Dear Readers,

Married couples raising kids face a number of everyday stresses, including work, family, school, extracurricular activities, paying bills and saving funds for college.  It is common for married couples to sacrifice time with each other to focus on family or work related activities.

However, at some point, the children grow up, graduate and move on to their own lives.  What happens to the parents now?  Having finally raised their children and not dealing with the stresses they once had, they may find themselves dealing with a different kind of stress: learning to reestablish and reinforce the marriage that took a backseat to the needs of the family.

Age and doubt can bring be a breeding ground for insecurity.  The kids are gone.  Old Blue, the family dog, just died of old age.  Where do we go from here?

Below is such a story….

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Dear Dr. Kane:

I hope that you may be able to help us with our marriage.  My husband and I are both African-American but we are from two different parts of the United States.  My husband was born and raised in Washington State, and I am a southern woman born in a small town in Mississippi.  Needless to say, we were raised differently; I was raised to speak my mind when I am concerned about an issue.  My husband was raised not to confront issues, rather to “go along to get along.”

We have been married 27 years; have raised five children, all who are now grown, and living in different parts of the country. Our youngest just got admitted into law school in one a different part of the country.  When the kids were young, we were very involved in activities centered on the family, school and sports activities.  One could say that we ran our own taxi service as we struggled to keep up with the kids, their interests and activities.

We would often give up our time with each other, figuring we could catch up later, but “later” never seemed to come. There were always vacations with the children and other activities with them, but we never set time aside for our marriage and each other.  Now that the kids are grown, successful, accomplished and on their own, we figured that our time has arrived, but we always seem to be in conflict.

The last major blow up occurred a week ago as we were leaving church following worship services.   During the mingling at the end of services, I observed a much younger woman talking to my husband.  She appeared to be too involved in the discussion, hanging on every word he said and smiling at him broadly.  I watched as during one of her giggling moments, she touched his arm.   I was incensed that she was touching my husband and just like most men, he seemed oblivious—he just stood there laughing.  I was so embarrassed.  I felt like a fool and that other women were looking.  I felt I had to do something.

Later on, when we were in the restroom together, I pulled this lady to the side, informing her that I did not appreciate the attention she was giving my husband or the fact that she had touched his arm.  She responded as if she was surprised, stating that she and my husband were in similar professions and that her relationship with my husband was purely professional.  She then went on to apologize for creating the impression that their relationship was anything different from that.  I told her that I would be keeping my eye on her, and then I smiled and walked away.

Later that evening, my husband told me that the young woman told him about the conversation in the restroom.  He was very angry at me—simply for doing what I had to do to protect my marriage.  In turn, I was extremely angry with her for having informed my husband about our private conversation.  This is not the way that mature black women act.  That conversation was between us as women.  If she had a problem with anything I said to her, then as a woman, she should not have acted like a little bitch and told on me by informing my husband.

To be clear, I am going to protect what I have.  I am going to protect my marriage.  If that means chasing off women who I feel are scheming to get my man, then that is what I am going to do.  I have talked to my girlfriends, and they agree with me that a woman has to stand and protect what she has or be ready to lose it.

So now, what advice can you give me so I can pass it on to my husband?  He won’t listen to me.  Since you are a man, and an educated one, he ‘ll be more open to hearing from you.   Now, don’t disappoint me!

Protecting my marriage and guarding my turf,

The Guardian, Seattle WA

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My Dear Woman,

I have the distinct feeling that you are trying to play me.  The marching orders at the end of your letter are to “provide advice to give to your husband because he will listen to me because I am a man.”  Madam, you are not seeking assistance from me.   Instead, you are intentionally placing me in a position where I either lecture him on the fact that you are right, or I will be a disappointment to you.

I apologize in advance for the major disappointment I’m about to serve up.  In your letter, you essentially treat your husband as if he is weak, unwise, and susceptible to young women.  You have positioned yourself as being the one to “protect your turf.”  Who are you protecting your turf from?

This may be difficult for you, but you must be willing to examine the basis of your own feelings and behavior.  There is no evidence that this woman engaged in inappropriate behavior by touching the arm of your spouse. Therefore, I would ask you to consider why you reacted the way in which you did.

  • Why were you embarrassed by what you observed?
  • Why would you assume that eyes of the other women were on you? If there were eyes on you, why didn’t you simply ignore them? Or shrug off the “looks?”
  • What was your reaction to what you saw?
  • Why was it necessary to say that you were “keeping your eye on” the young woman? What were you communicating to her when you smiled and walked away?

The major issue here, whether you want to consider it or not, is your emotional security.  Emotional security can be defined as the stability of an individual’s emotional state of being.  The flipside of this measure is emotional insecurity.  Emotional insecurity or simply insecurity is a feeling of general unease or nervousness that may be triggered by perceiving of oneself to be vulnerable or inferior in some way, or a sense of vulnerability or instability which threatens one’s self-image or ego.

Based on your behavior, you seem to be emotionally insecure.  Be willing to be honest with yourself and explore what may be the true basis of these uncomfortable feelings.  The young woman, the supposedly inappropriate touching and the perceived looks by others are a smokescreen, a distraction.  If you have the courage to look within, what you find may be exactly what is lacking in your marriage.

This will require courage because as much as the truth can set you free, it can also be truly painful, because in examining the truth and its nakedness, there is no place to hide. As you stand at the crossroads, you must decide what direction you want to travel.  What is the truth here?

  • The portrayal of window dressing and the emptiness of the marital relationship.
  • The lack of belief, faith and trust, in both your husband as an individual, and the marital relationship.
  • The power and control aspects of your interactions with others and the need to dominate.
  • The need to guard your marriage and protect your “turf.”

 The portrayal of window dressing and the emptiness of the marital relationship.

 Earlier you indicated that you have been married 27 years and have successfully raised five children.  However, what you have defined as “marriage” is in reality “family.”

There is nothing in your writing that truly defines your marriage.   You may be proud of the children’s successes and accomplishments, but in centering your focus  on your children, the two of you have sacrificed the marital relationship to a point where your satisfaction comes from the image projected, rather than the substance that creates the foundation of a marriage.

The lack of belief, faith and trust (BFT), in both your husband as an individual, and the marital relationship.

 The foundation of intimacy between two individuals is belief, faith and trust (BFT).  It is on that foundation that the two individuals share their vulnerability, allow exposure of the psychological selves and master cementing trust. In doing this, they create and sustain the marital relationship.

Had there been belief, faith and trust in your relationship, confronting the young woman in the restroom would not have been necessary.   Instead, a dialogue with your husband could had been opened at another time rather than have him be subjected to possible humiliation as a result of your emotional insecurity.

The power and control aspects of your interactions with others and the need to dominate. 

You say that the children were the focus of your life, but from the way you sought to control the young woman’s interaction with your husband (“I told her that I would be keeping my eye on her, watching her movements and interactions”),  the truth may be somewhat different, that instead, you made yourself the focus and power player in your children’s lives.

As much as you were able to control the lives of your children, you were powerless in controlling the young woman as she, a “mature black woman,” informed your husband about your inappropriate behaviors and comments.  It must have angered you to no end knowing that this young woman may be sharing with others the story of your insanely jealous behavior.

The need to guard your marriage and protect your “turf.”

After reading your letter, one could be left with the perception that you are a jealous woman guarding your marriage and protecting your turf.   Perhaps this is what you intended.  However, the basis of these actions are more indicative of emotional insecurity, which adds to your instability and fearfulness, causing you to react to imagined intrusions.  As one would suspect, such a realization would no doubt impact the image in which you are seeking to project …and protect.

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Concluding Words

My Dear Woman,

Take this as opportunity to let go of the defensive posturing and gamesmanship.  Utilizing the Five R’s of RELIEF:

  • Respite-step away, take a deep breath, inhale (exhale), calm yourself
  • Reaction-own your feelings (insecurity), because these are your feelings. Understand that no one else is feeling what you are currently reacting to.
  • Reflective-in taking a moment, process your feelings and thoughts
  • Response-in a calm and collective manner, share what you have processed with others within your external environment
  • Reevaluate-examine your actions. Question what has been learned and what would be done differently should there be a reoccurrence of the same situation.

Be willing to understand that it is not the younger women who are a threat to your marriage.  The common mistake that many spouses make is as they focus on the family, they unconsciously sacrificed the marital relationship. As a result, the family and marital unit becomes integrated as one.  The solution is to work towards the following:

  • Separate the marital relationship from the family unit.
  • Cease sacrificing the marital unit in favor of family activities. Instead, balance family activities with time set aside for spousal interaction (e.g., date night)
  • Focus on the love, energy and commitment that was the basis of the marital relationship in the first place.
  • Build a stronger foundation based on belief, faith and trust, which strengthen the bonds of the marital relationship.

Release your need to control all aspects of your spouse’s interactions with others.  Hold to the tenets of the marital relationship.

Be more discreet in what you share with your girlfriends.  This group can mean well in wanting to support you and see it as their objective to join with you to protect your martial relationship, but keep in mind that this is your marital relationship and not theirs.  They may mean well, but your friends can actually do harm.

For example: Some years ago, having returned home from work, my wife Linda jokingly commented on a luncheon that I had with a female colleague that day.  It surprised me that she knew, since the lunch was spontaneous, and I didn’t have a chance to tell her.   My dear Linda described for me the entire menu, down to the dessert.  She also described the female colleague and what clothing she was wearing.  Shocked, I asked her how she knew all of this.  She chuckled, telling me that a group of her girlfriends came to the house to inform her that I was having an affair and of my “secret luncheon rendezvous.”  She added that they offered to drive her back to the restaurant so that she could see for herself.  She declined to do so, knowing that I was probably having lunch with a colleague.  She said that they looked at her in disbelief that she could be so trusting.

Although these girlfriends intended to support a friend who had a cheating spouse, it was the belief, faith and trust that my Linda had in both me and our marital relationship that prevented the division and conflict that could have occurred due to their actions.

My Dear Woman, now that your children have moved on and the nest is empty, this is a period of transition for you and your spouse.  As strange as it may seem now that the house is quiet, and the focus is different, this is now your time.  Utilize it wisely.  Reinforce your marital relationship.  Cease living in fear, for the fear you have chosen to live in may be the unforeseen future.   Instead, live with fear as you and your spouse together continue on your journey.   Yes, it may be uncomfortable, but the uncomfortable can be transformed into the comfortable—and the two of you can do it together.

Change is always tough.  Even for those who see themselves as agents of change, the process of starting something new can cause times of disorientation, uncertainty, and insecurity.

-Joyce Meyer

Dr. Micheal Kane… The Visible Man

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