Self awareness is one of the keys to creating a strong marriage. One contributing factor of thriving relationships is each partner’s ability to understand and accept themselves through the practice of self awareness.
When both partners are able to clarify and express their thoughts, perspectives, experiences and their emotions effectively in an atmosphere of receptivity, non judgment and curiosity, they build a relationship of two strong, individuals who have the capacity to create a strong, intimate bond together.
Here are some ways you can develop a practice to cultivate self-awareness while developing your capacity to strengthen your marriage at the same time.
The Pitfalls of Not Knowing Yourself
Without knowing yourself, it is likely that…
You will be tossed about by others’ expectations, ideas, opinions, perceptions and emotions.
You will be less able to have a strong sense of self required for an intimate relationship.
You may agree to things that don’t reflect your true nature nor align with your values.
You may allow your partner to decide and determine how things unfold.
You may allow your partner to decide what gets focused on without being part of a co-created process.
You may begin to feel a growing sense of dissatisfaction within yourself. Dissatisfaction can be a precursor to anger, resentment, passive aggressive behavior, lies and deception, infidelity, depression and anxiety.
But isn’t self awareness selfish?
Many of us have been taught that thinking about, expressing and asking for what we want is selfish, self-absorbed or inconsiderate of others. So we go along and quiet our inner voice.
We then lapse into pleasing others at the expense of losing ourselves. When we are not expressing our inner voice and true nature, we also lose the opportunity to create a mutually supportive relationship.
We tell ourselves, not only that expressing ourself is selfish, but that our perspective will not be accepted or understood or might create conflict because it differs from our partner. (Stay tuned for more blogs on accepting differences and dealing effectively with conflict).
In the end, all of this results in avoiding the practice of self awareness. But when we hide ourselves, we deprive our partner of the opportunity to truly know us and therefore, it prevents the development of an authentic relationship. And without authenticity, intimacy suffers.
Coupling Self-Awareness with Compassion
When we can recognize the benefits of self awareness and give ourselves permission to practice it, we must do so in a context of compassion, non-judgmental curiosity, and acceptance.
If we couple our self awareness with gentle compassion and acceptance, we will be much more motivated to be curious and to deepen our understanding of ourselves.
If we judge or criticize what we discover, we will avoid the process of cultivating self awareness.
Setting the Foundation
In the swirl of our days, we still have opportunities to slow down, breathe deeply and take an inventory of how we are feeling in every aspect of our human-ness. This is practicing self awareness. The choice to take time to slow down, breathe, and be curious about ourselves in any given moment or circumstance sets the foundation for growth, intimacy and authenticity.
As we begin to get to know and understand our desires, our moods, our energy levels, our stressors, our emotions, our responses, our physical sensations, our likes and dislikes, we are creating a foundation of inner peace, confidence, strength and clarity.
With this foundation, we experience the freedom to express ourselves with our partner and reveal our authentic voice. As both partners learn to do this more and more, relationships thrive in contexts of mutual support and understanding.
Discovering Limitations, Being Accountable
As we practice self awareness, we will become more aware not only of our strengths, but also our limitations. We will become aware of the things we do that benefit us and others, and the things we do that may distress or hurt ourselves or others.
Compassionate acceptance does not mean we are not accountable for the ways our limitations hurt and impact others. It is crucial that we learn how to acknowledge our limitations and make commitments to transform those limitations into strengths. Discovering our limitations are opportunities for tremendous and meaningful growth.
Shame is the Enemy of Self Awareness
Shame is the thing that will make us cringe and run for the hills, when we think of the task of looking at ourselves deeply. It makes us defensive and anxious and afraid to be self-aware; it tells us to avoid the vulnerability in the practice of self awareness.
Shame Inhibits Intimacy
Shame inhibits and destroys intimacy because when we feel shame, we hide parts of ourselves as a way to cope. When we hide, we are not free to be our true self. Without this freedom, we are very restricted in how much we open up to another. This lack of freedom and the resulting restrictions prevent us from creating deep intimacy and abiding trust in our marriage or significant relationship.
It is important that when we recognize our limitations or mistakes, we do so without shaming ourselves. Many of us have learned that limitations, mistakes, and challenges are indicators of weakness. In order to not be seen as weak, we learn to hide the parts of ourselves that struggle or make mistakes.
But our limitations are not about weakness. They are essential parts of our true humanity, born of our painful experiences or lack of understanding. If we choose to learn from our limitations they can become crucial elements of our growth.
If we practice self awareness with compassion, we are more likely to accept our limitations. We are more likely to understand that if ignored or minimized, our limitations can become obstacles to our growth and block the way in reaching our fullest potential.
The Ultimate Gifts
Once we begin to practice compassionate self awareness, we are taking the essential steps in creating an authentic and thriving relationship.
Knowing ourselves, loving ourselves, and recognizing our limits with gentle compassion are the ultimate gifts we can give to ourselves. Being willing to take the risk to share our true self with our partner is the ultimate gift we can give to our marriage or significant relationship. These gifts nurture intimacy, trust and happiness.
The more we are receptive to who we are and demonstrate an authentic commitment to be our true self with all of our strengths and gifts as well as our limitations and struggles, the more our partner will have the opportunity to do the same. When both partners do this, beautiful things unfold.
Questions to Ask Yourself as You Cultivate Self Awareness: ~Do I feel accepting of what comes up when I slow down and pay attention?
~Am I open and curious?
~Am I eager and willing to explore and go deeper to understand myself?
~Do I find myself judging, criticizing, editing my desires, emotions and sensations?
~Do I feel that I deserve to receive love, support and understanding?
~Do I feel it is selfish to express my desires and wants?
~Do I resist the slowing down and self reflection by being distracted, busy, numb?
Ask these questions with the compassionate intention of being honest with what you find.
Take the time to reflect and consider.
Make a commitment to yourself to get to know yourself deeply and to be courageous in sharing yourself with your partner.
Peace in the journey.
P.S. I would love to hear from you. Let me know what you discover in your evolving practice of self awareness.