One of the most painful and powerful discoveries in my almost 10-year transformation journey with The Crucible Project is that I have created the world that I live in. Anytime I experience pain or find myself doing the things I do not want to do, it is because I am making choices at some level that has led to such a place.
I Create The World I Live In
Instead of blaming others for whatever situation I find myself in, I have learned to step into my power as a man and discover how I am contributing to the continuation of the problem. Finding how I created the mess is the largest leverage point for me to begin to try something new in order to get new and different outcomes. I have found many successes in the areas that I had previously blamed others for by focusing on how I can create the world I really want and trying new actions.
My Choices Have Resulted In This Relationship
It is especially true in my most important relationships. My relationships with my parents, wife and children are what they are largely because of the decisions I have made. When they have been messy, it has been discovering where I can take responsibility in creating the mess that has been most helpful. Taking responsibility, accepting fault where I can, and taking new actions to create a different outcome in my relationships have been vitally important to my relationship outcomes.
I recently celebrated 30 years of marriage with my wife. I believe the reason that I feel so connected to her emotionally and so committed to her and her alone is because of the things I have learned in The Crucible Project work around accepting responsibility and creating the relationship that I truly want.
Reactive Relationship Pattern
Devra and I have worked with over 350 couples in a full-day Marriage Intensive, one couple at a time. During the day with a couple on the brink of divorce, we have discovered several patterns of interaction that cut across the most painful reasons couples end up in front of us. The most common problem is that one or both are unwilling or unable to accept responsibility for the shape the marriage is in. Both blame the other for the state of their relationship. Both are waiting on the other to change. They are stuck reacting to their spouse.
Husbands Go First
I believe scripture challenges husbands to go first in making repairs to the relationship (I Peter 3:7). For me that means that when Devra and I have disagreements or challenges, I must first ask myself how I have contributed to the challenge. I communicate to her all that I take responsibility for in the mess. I leave out any discussion of what she has contributed as that is for her discover. I let her know how much I love her.
I don’t say the specific phrase “I’m sorry.” I don’t ask for forgiveness. I simply share what is in my heart with an apology. I’m offering her an apology that feels good to me. I am not putting more on her by asking her to give me forgiveness – and I am not giving that power of apology away by having to wait to see if she forgives me. I am simply stating what I take responsibility for and offering an apology.
And if I have a request, I use the clean language I have learned in this work to make it. I also listen with full body listening, just as we have all learned when we learned how to “Check In.” I don’t interrupt. No cross talk, etc. I let her feelings, judgments, be hers and accept her where she is. Moving toward her physically frequently helps. I call this “hugging the porcupine” because sometimes she is not quite ready for affection and I’m not really feeling it, but most of the time it is helpful.
Summary To Create The Marriage You Really Want
- Stop waiting on your spouse to change. Discover how you are contributing to the problem in the relationship.
- Communicate your responsibility to your spouse with an apology.
- Thinking about the relationship you deeply desire, make a clean request of what you want.
- With the discovery of your contribution, commit to trying new and different approaches to create a different outcome.
- “Hug the porcupine” by moving toward her in some way that she allows.
Questions for your relationships:
- How have you contributed to the mess in your relationship? What have you been doing that is continuing the relationship struggle?
- What can you offer your spouse about the relationship struggle? Can you state, “I take full responsibility for …” and name those specific things that you are doing that contributes to the mess? Can you offer her an apology?
- What is it that you really want in your relationship? What new and different actions can you take that might create the relationship that you truly want?
- How are you investing in creating the relationship that you deeply want? What are you reading to strengthen your relationship? What marriage workshops, conferences or weekends are you planning to attend? What coaching or counseling are you employing to help you and your spouse have the marriage God wants to bless you with?
By Roy Wooten
Roy completed his initial Crucible weekend in 2009 and has been the longtime leader of The Crucible Project community in Houston. Roy and his wife Devra have led over 175 of their Life Together Forever Couples Weekends and are the authors of The Secret to Lifetime Love: Speaking and Hearing Truth. He also authored Full Throttle Into Fatherhood and is the Executive Director of Shield Bearer Counseling Centers in Houston, Texas. Follow Roy at LifeTogetherForever.com.
Photo courtesy of Roy Wooten.