If we asked Superman to stand in front of a brick wall and tell us who is on the other side, he could easily use his X-ray vision to see straight through, right? He’d be able to tell us all sorts of details, too, from something as simple as what that person looks like to quickly discerning if they are happy, sad, scared, or even in danger. And if necessary, he could break through the wall to help them. But what if we put you in front of the same wall? Could you match Superman’s feat?
Of course not! And in this scenario, you’d be okay with that. After all, he’s Superman! But if we apply this concept to our marriage, it feels super deflating when our spouse is building walls that we seemingly have no chance of penetrating.
In last week’s blog post on the unhealthy fear dance, we wrote about how fear is one of the biggest reasons why we get stuck in unhealthy marriage patterns. The other one is when we build walls. In fact, they are directly tied together.
We all put up walls; they are there for a reason
When it comes to relationships, we aren’t talking about physical walls. These are emotional walls, and the truth is, we all have them to some degree. According to the National Institute of Marriage in Branson, Missouri, walls are always built by people who feel threatened or unsafe. They don’t want to stay behind the wall, and maybe they’ll peek their head around the side every so often. But because it feels safe, they use the wall for protection and self-preservation.
A few things that may lead us to build walls include:
- Feeling unsure if our partner cares about or loves us
- Constant angry outbursts and demands
- Harmful words and threats
- One or both spouses ignoring key issues
- Someone we care about is withholding love, affection, time, and humor
- Feelings of inadequacy
- Unwarranted criticism
- Feeling disconnected and having a lack of closeness
As we learned in our previous blog on safe and connected marriages, building walls is natural. At the same time, God creates us to be open and intimate with each other. Therefore, we must remove walls so that we can have a safe and connected marriage rather than one that is disconnected and unsafe.
What can we do to encourage our spouse to take down the wall?
While the need to build walls is natural, they can also be seen by our partners as obstacles that stand in the way of connection and intimacy. When our spouse feels scared or threatened, the initial thought is to try and break the wall down and help, such as Superman in the example at the beginning of this post. But that’s the last thing we want to do.
To encourage our spouse to take down their wall, it takes finesse — and an open heart.
- Understand that the wall is there for a reason. If you are too forceful in your attempt to get through the wall, you will likely trigger your spouse’s core fears and make things worse. So, accept the fact that the wall is there.
- Let your spouse know that you are not going to require them to be open with you until they feel safe. And if you haven’t guessed it by now, it is YOUR job to give them every reason to feel safe.
- Stand guard over their walls; choose to care for their feelings more than your wants. Treat them as the valuable, treasured person that they are.
- As we’ve written about many a time, be trustworthy. Trust must be continually built and maintained.
- Value the differences in your relationship. Differences are generally not about right and wrong! They are about our preferences, perceptions, likes and dislikes, and even personalities.
- Suspend judgment and don’t fall into the trap of being negative or throwing out harsh criticism. Meet your spouse with compassion, understanding, and even curiosity.
In Short: Building Walls
All we are saying is that when we see a wall — whether physical or emotional — the natural desire is to go around it, over it, and, if necessary, through it. As humans, we tend to put such walls in a negative light. But when it comes to our marriage, we must realize that building walls comes with the territory. If we want to see the person on the other side for who they really are — even if that person is us — we must learn to honor the walls and be willing to take them down.
Our heart is devoted to caring about people and marriages!
Our heart is and always has been devoted to caring about people and ensuring they have a safe and connected marriage. The best way we know how to do that is by spreading the word to more people and let them know that we are here.
What do you think? Do you have a safe and connected marriage? What are some ways you and your spouse honor each other’s walls? Have you been able to slowly take your own walls down over the years? Send us a quick email and let us know how you did it so that others can learn as well! mike@MikeandSusanDawson.com