Does Shame Live In Your Marriage?
My husband, Chris, and I recently experienced an extended effort in attempting to make a shame-based decision- it took 11 months to be exact! We needed to find one of our dogs a new home. It was an extremely difficult decision to begin with, and then was prolonged due to feelings of shame.
Oddly, this precious and docile pup did not blend (at all) with our other dog. So, instead of returning him to the rescue shelter right away, we all suffered in various ways for 11 months! Ya gotta love self-induced drama!
Previously, I was the ‘judgy’ woman who looked down her nose at people who ‘got rid of pets’ (blush…). Obviously, I had more to learn about compassion. Thanks for another lesson Universe, and a great big, yucky slice of humble pie… As a result of our (Chris and my) shameful lies of being ‘bad people’ if we ‘got rid of our dog’, we engaged in an emotional WWF wrestling match on and off for 11 months. Now, don’t get me wrong, this time period came with several fruitful lessons. Aside from stripping me of another layer of judgment and replacing it with ever deepening beautiful compassion for myself and others; I also ramped up a serious level of patience – being that our first dog wined for literally 3-5 hours straight every night for 11 months in protest of this unwanted and uninvited creature who had invaded her home! We also received the pure joy of rehabbing an abused, starving and terrified dog, and taught him that the world IS a safe and loving place- this gift is far beyond measure. In the end, we found Lucas the perfect home with beloved friends where we will be able to visit! And with many days of tears, we said good-bye to our sweet Lucas.
All humans experience the icky, dark, gruesome feelings and stories associated with shame (um, except sociopaths). Shame lives in all marriages (and families) to one degree or another.
Like a stealth and ferocious lion looming near by, shame lies in waiting for 1 of 2 unsuspecting opportunities to pounce.
• Shame is prepared at any moment to pounce on your emotional body when you’re vulnerable. To blame you for not being enough- lovable enough, skinny enough, smart enough, sober enough, successful enough, home with the family enough, saving enough, etc.
In the story above- my self-abusive shame was attached to the lies and limiting beliefs around not being smart enough to ‘figure it out’ and not being loving enough to just ‘grin and bare it’, and feeling like ‘a bad person’ for wanting my home to return to that of peace and solitude - I know, it sounds ridiculous when stated aloud!
• Secondly, shame is ready to be unleashed onto an unsuspecting lover or other family member at the drop of a hat. This happens usually as a projection of our own perceived imperfections or perceived short-comings, which is why it is necessary to clean up, remove and learn to rebound quickly when the wash of shame attempts to over take you.
During our time of ‘fostering’ Lucas, there were many times I wanted to yell at Chris and be angry with him when I ran out of patience with the spasmodic doggy duo! After all, we did get Lucas on Chris’s birthday, so obviously it was his fault that our pups loathed each other, right!!?
But in reality, I just felt overwhelmed and exhausted with the situation. And fresh out of ideas to reclaim calm.
When any feeling of powerlessness are present, shame and it’s cohorts are not far behind.
I am fortunate and thankful to have many tools at my disposal for rebounding from shame, guilt, anger and upset- but they did not prevent my human imperfection from expressing my, scratch that, puking my frustration onto Chris 100 percent of the time!
If Chris and I h