What causes marriage dissatisfaction?
The big four are hurt, fear, self-sufficiency and selfishness. By these, the "4 Ingredients of Intimacy" (Marriage Skills #37, #38) are shut down. It usually happens like this:
First, hurt shuts down Affectionate Caregiving (#1). If I stole $100 from you yesterday and then today have my business shut down by the IRS for not paying my taxes, are you going to say to me, "Karl, I am so sad for you, this must be awful"?
Probably not! You are much more likely to say, "That's what you get you scoundrel; what goes around comes around." Hurting you has shut down you showing me Affectionate Caregiving (#1). Isn't it also true, that when others hurts us, and we discover that they are now experiencing something hurtful, something inside of us thinks, "I'm glad you are hurting; now you know how I feel!"
Second, If I hurt you in the past, you will now fear me hurting you in the future. This fear now shuts down Vulnerable Communication (#2). We have a tendency to think, "Hurt me once shame on you; hurt me twice shame on me." We are fully committed to not being hurt. We will not be vulnerable and risk being hurt when we think there is a chance of being hurt.
For example, would you ask me to help you move this weekend if you knew my response would be "No way, I am not breaking my back for you; hire that done like I did"? Why? Because you would feel rejected. Your reluctance to ask is more than just knowing that I won't help. There is an emotional reason--to avoid the pain of being rejected. So fear of being rejected is what shuts down the ingredient of Vulnerable Communication (#2).
Third, the fear of more hurt leads to something very, very damaging: self-sufficiency, sometimes called self-reliance. Rather than being a virtue, self-sufficiency is a vice because it shuts down Joint Accomplishment (3), the third Ingredient of Intimacy.
Even though the Bible is clear that we need others and that it is "not good to be alone" (Gen. 2:18), we allow ourselves to become too self-sufficient. It goes something like this:
"It would be nice if I could let myself be vulnerable to others, but when I do I always get hurt . . . I wish I could drop my guard and have others come through for me . . . it may work for others but it doesn't for me, I always get let down or hurt . . . So I must pull myself up by my own bootstraps and take care of myself, because no one else will."
Fourth, it is this self-sufficiency that shuts down the fourth ingredient of intimacy--Joint Accomplishment (4).
Shutting down the first 3 ingredients can happen quite quickly. Sometimes, it may take several years to get to stage 4, which is selfishness (though it doesn't have to). It goes something like this:
- "I am so tired of being the one that is always giving in."
- "I'm tired of being the one that is wiping baby noses and bottoms."
- "I'm tired of being the one that burns the candle at both ends."
- "I'm tired of always sacrificing. It is about time for me to have a little happiness, and Lord knows I have paid my dues."
Believing, wrongly that we must look after our own needs, we then start taking to get our needs met and it is this selfishness that shuts down the fourth ingredient of intimacy Mutual Giving (#4).
When one person starts taking selfishly, then the other person often does the same and we now have two people taking. Like two ticks attaching to one another, each depending on the other to give blood, closeness and intimacy fail. Taking replaced giving--the crucial element of intimacy.