Written by Nikki Uglow...
Having been in both a disconnected, painful and essentially ‘unloving’ relationship and also, latterly, a deeply connected, committed and fulfilling relationship – with the same man – I think I may be in a fairly unique position to be able to offer my guidance on how to achieve marital bliss, so here goes!
I have been married to Pete for 34 years this year, and looking back from a place of pure joy in the last nine years of this relationship, to the first 23 years in it, I can see how absolutely filled with pain those years were, but I didn’t really see that back then.
So, did my husband ever abuse me, or shout at me, physically harm our kids, laze around and drink to excess, or any of the other more recognisably painful conditions of marriage during those 23 years…?
Nope. Not once.
So why do I describe my marriage as ‘so painful’ for 23 years…?
The simple answer is that I had no idea that we were in pain back then and that there even was such an experience of ‘NO pain’ in a relationship. It’s only from today’s amazing vantage point that I can see so very clearly what was missing in those earlier years.
At the time, despite our regular ups and downs, disagreements and challenges, we would have described our marriage as “normal”.
It was – absolutely 'normal'.
But ‘normal’ is neither pain-free, nor joyous and I’m sure that’s what we would all prefer if we knew how to achieve it.
So what was missing…?
What we discovered was that unconditional love was missing from every aspect of our lives and the result was unrecognised pain, every day.
Neither of us felt truly loved, so every decision we made, every interaction we had, every subconscious choice we made, was from a place of feeling uncared for, like we didn’t matter to anyone or that we weren’t good enough. From that place, we unknowingly perpetuated that feeling in ourselves and each other, as well as in our children and others.
We really had no idea. After all, we were perfectly ‘normal’.
But surely we were in love when we married you might ask...
Oh yes, for a brief while we enjoyed what we saw in each other and how it made each of us feel.
But that wore off.
Over time we stopped trading ‘niceness’ and started resenting each other; started being irritated and feeling inconvenienced by each other. What’s more, we didn’t even see it happening.
So what happened to change all that…?
After such a long time of lurching from one minor or major crisis to another, from putting work (kids, sport, whatever) above our relationship, I discovered Pete had been having affairs. It was the ultimate crisis and one we could no longer plaster over and keep going.
Crippled by indescribable pain, I searched the internet and found a report written by a relationship counsellor in the U.S. and sent it to my husband. He phoned this counsellor and within days we were on a plane to America to see him. That was the start of an amazing turnaround in our marriage.
For the last nearly nine years, I have felt so loved and cherished that the affairs I discovered mean absolutely nothing to me and I never even think about them now.
That’s pretty amazing actually, considering the full extent of Pete’s infidelity and sex addiction and the depth of my feelings of worthlessness at the time.
Overcoming infidelity wasn’t easy, but it was actually simple, once I felt unconditionally accepted and loved, and then trusted that all the advice I was being given would make me happier, it did!
We now coach individuals and couples, some of whom are still plagued by the same gut-wrenching pain, nightmares and painful images that I was, some 10 years or more after an affair.
I consider myself very fortunate!
So, here are my 5 simple steps to an amazing marriage.
Step 1) Recognise the pain in your relationship.
This is important. We can’t change what we can’t see…..
• Do you ever feel, unappreciated, used, hurt, angry, afraid, wounded, empty, second (third, fourth or fifth) best behind your partner's work, the kids, the pets, sports etc?
• Is sex a BIG issue in your relationship? You don’t feel as if you get enough of it, you feel used by it, it’s a taboo subject or completely absent from the relationship?
• Is your relationship mired in conflict? Do you argue, simmer, resent or feel frustrated with your spouse ANY of the time? (Yes it is possible to have a relationship completely free of any anger or contention.)
• You don’t spend much (if any) time together because you are so busy running your own lives, indulging your own interests, or because work is the driving force for one or both of you?
• Are you finding that overcoming infidelity is proving much more difficult than you hoped it might be?
If you can answer yes to even one of these questions, your relationship needs help.
Step 2) Take the time to learn all about unconditional love – you’re worth it!
Step 3) Speak to your spouse about the state of your marriage.
• During that conversation speak only in terms of YOUR mistakes and flaws (never blame him/her or the conversation will go downhill quickly).
• Express your desire to learn to love him/her better and to bring joy into the marriage.
• Ask if he/she would be willing to learn alongside you.
• Show him/her the same material which you have been learning from.
Step 4) Resolve to make your relationship the NUMBER ONE PRIORITY in your life.
There is nothing more important than finding the unconditional love you need to heal your own sense of worthlessness and then to bring that love into your relationship with your spouse.
From that place of awareness, share your absolute commitment to him/her and the relationship.
When you make your relationship your priority, then eventually you will be able to care more deeply for others, including your kids, from a happy, full and worthwhile place.
It will transform your entire family.
Step 5) Do what it takes to bring unconditional love (the life blood of any relationship) into your marriage.
This is the most vital part of your recovery. Learn more on our seven week online programme: What's Love Got To Do With It? How to get your best friend back when infidelity has rocked your marriage.
“Embracing the principles I have been taught and feeling unconditionally accepted, has enabled me to understand exactly why I had affairs and also to find the ability to tell the truth about them, without feeling that I would be judged, embarrassed or blamed. It has also ensured I will never go back to that behaviour again.”
R.M. (Anonymity preserved)