We marry someone who over time forces us to confront our own demons. Marriage moves along developmentally as partners get distracted by the tasks of life – finding a job, building a career, buying that first house, having a baby, illness and death of a parent, etc.  In the meantime each individual is progressing developmentally at their own pace in their own way.  At times the very thing one needs to do for oneself is in conflict with the needs of the relationship.  The marriage must provide a climate of safety which encourages a process of self exploration.  Spouses must be able to grow in the ways they need to or the relationship will suffer. One process which complicates the issue is embodied by the statement “you marry your worst enemy” which actually means you select someone who has the potential to challenge you to grow in the very ways you need to [variation of opposites attract combined with selecting someone who embodies parts of the parent you had the most difficulty with (repetition compulsion)].  However, the key is the emotional climate or safety of the relationship (the three building blocks of trust, commitment, and surrender) and how it fosters or impedes the growth of the individual. If the relationship does not provide an atmosphere that allows the individual to grow, eventually the individual implodes – bursting with their own need to be their best self or true self. Efforts at individual growth (self discovery) often challenge the fundamental contract of the relationship and each individual has to decide if it is worth burying their true self “for the good of the relationship”.  Therefore, every marriage reaches the point of do or die.  The issue is what people choose to do about it. In doing couples work, the therapist needs to notice and take into account the natural developmental pace of the individuals and the couple.  Sometimes what is useful for the individual in their own search for their truth, their need and/or pacing may contradict what is best for the couple.  Similarly an action which clearly is in the best interest (support) of the couple may go against individual needs.  The awkward and sometimes healthy tension of individual development must be woven delicately and intricately into the fiber of the couple.
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