Passive Aggressive Husband

secret contract in marriages


Is there a secret contract in marriages?

Why is this image of marriage as a new beginning so strong? There is a hidden hope in all of us that after this new opportunity to have a better life that is getting married, our partners would keep us happy and will be with us emotionally and physically whenever we need them, so we can finally heal past childhood wounds.

But, why does it happen that the love we have on our wedding day gradually vanishes and we just get silent treatments and sexless nights instead of the love we imagined? Is it work-pressure, lack of time or another love failure to account for this sad situation? Or is there another reason?

The main factor to explain here is the hidden pact between the parties. They hope in silence that their past wounds will be healed, but they don't know clearly how deep this hurt is, neither have they known how to express this repair need to each other. Is like two blind people dealing with each other without recognizing that they need obvious help communicating with each other.

Childhood experiences are usually packaged into a concept: what kind of attachment style had you early in life? What I call childhood wounds, is more or less the condensed story of a failed attachment that left the person mostly resentful because left alone, or mistrusting people's intentions because he was lied to, or expecting the worst from the world and from other people, because this is the result that child abandonment produces. We rationalize those ideas as being "prudent," "realistic," or simply "being normal," when they are, in reality, condensed versions of childhood traumatic experiences.

One very important point of our relational frame is that all the behavior prompted by the attachment model is unconscious. After so many years in which we tell ourselves that we have left our childhood behind, we tend to forget completely the experiences that made us as adults.

Even if both members of the couple would be ready to share their unconscious needs coming from past frustration of their childhood needs, they can't, because they can't access the unconscious well of their primary experiences.

How can we describe the two levels of a couple's communication? We have what we express as our conscious wishes for this new marriage; and we have the hidden, true but unconscious conversation underneath. Neither of the two sides of the couple realizes the strong influence of this hidden mindset!

The have forgotten the past, and only have the lessons of it as a vague mindset that prescribes for them how relationships "have to be" to make them "happy." They never realize this mindset is a strict cage where few options are allowed and fear covers the unknown dimensions. Mark Waller (1) makes an extraordinary description of the "hidden agenda of the marriage contract," here:

"The subconscious agenda behind the wedding is that this other person will finally heal our pain. Of course, we are completely unaware of our pain and how it drove us to the altar. But we expect our partner "to get it" and heal us nonetheless. They both have the same hidden agenda:

"Okay, Sally. I take you to be my lawfully wedded bride, to have and to hold, as long as you prove to be safe and never make any emotional demands on me."

"Ralph, I take you as my husband so that you can give me what my mother never gave me: approval, acceptance and a sense of importance. Recognition wouldn't be bad either. By the way, I promise never to tell you what I want since I don't know that myself... "

And their marriage goes on and on around hidden needs.

Without knowing the weight of our hidden expectations from each other, we can easily feel again frustrated, left behind and even rejected by the partner who is not delivering the expected relief to our childhood wounds. If only we ourselves knew how to express them!

We are all children having imperfect attachments. More insight on what are our childhood wounds, and what kind of balsam we need to heal them, is necessary. Imagine that you could be so brave as to explain to your partner what were the main areas you felt deprived in (was it recognition, encouragement, appreciation?) Or perhaps you can look at the reverse: what were you given little of: (impossibly high expectations, but never a bit of appreciation; lots of nagging and never a thank you, etc.)?

Then, you could be so brave as to tell your partner: "For me, for this marriage to succeed, I need to hear frequently (daily?) that I'm valuable for you. Don't ever think that we can get away with no praise or recognition... because you will be depriving me of the nutrition I crave most. So, please, give me a kind word for each thing I do for you... up until my inner child feels secure and appreciated."

By the same token, would you be ready to hear your partner saying: "OK, I haven't revealed this to anybody, but I feel insecure when other people are around... everybody seems to be more capable and intelligent than me. Could you please, remind me in your own words, when you see me doing things that are intelligent? I will probably reject you saying: "Oh, it's nothing," but I will feel comforted and happy inside."

In this way, nobody is forced to express hidden resentment through silent treatment; or trying to get a partner's attention using sexual denial, emotional abuse, snide comments, or confrontation as the preferred communication style. Being able to express hidden wounds as requests is a style that is plain, honest and focused on what are the needs of each side, to be solved by the joint cooperative work of the couple. Here is a real, concrete marriage contract both can deliver!


Nora Femenia

Talk to me to discover innovative and compassionate conflict solutions to your love challenges!  You can find my  Kindle books, like this one: When Love Hurts.

Or you can have a conversation with me, to feel supported and energized to clarify confusion in your marriage, and know exactly what to ask for and how to say it. Schedule your call.

Article Source:

(1) THE 'MARRIAGE CONTRACT', in Mark Waller, The Dance of the Lion and the Unicorn, page 111.


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