beachEDITOR S NOTE: I found this post at and I think they have tremendous info there… Here’s an editor’s Note at the top of the article: “This post has a great deal of psychobabble included. I apologize up front.” I think it’s very interesting, pyschobabble included…

You walk in the door and are greeted with honey, we need to talk about a few things. If you re human, your insides immediately tighten and your defenses may prepare for battle. It s a common occurrence.

Your spouse tells you what s going on in their head and you react.
The status quo is being threatened and while you may have grown tired of the relationship routine as well, your reaction is anything but open to their perspective.

Why is it that when an important person in our life (i.e. spouse) shares something and we disagree, it s more likely to turn into World War 3 than a honest discussion? Perhaps this is due to some belief that marriage is two people becoming one symbiotic entity. The Bible even alludes to this point and the two shall become one.

While this belief is true, the lens to view marriage needs to be adjusted.
Marriage is a symbiosis. But this relationship is not intended to produce happiness. It s the mechanism to produce better people.

Marriage is a people growing machine. That s the way it s designed. The two becoming one concept in the Bible is more about the sexual union and creation of a family than each spouse giving up their individual identity and only being a married couple.

In order to get the most out of marriage, it s necessary to have the proper view of what s going on. The natural conflict that occurs in marriage is part of the growing up process. It s unrealistic to believe that you and your spouse are going to agree on everything. Finances, parenting, in-laws, the list goes on and on.

Often to avoid conflict in marriage it appears easier to accommodate your spouse or avoid the tense topics altogether. The problem this creates is over time with the inevitable relationship conflicts, there will be less areas for discussion. There s the old saying about being able to point out the married couple eating dinner in the crowded restaurant: they re the ones not talking to each other.

The couple isn t talking because they ve already said everything there is to say, it s more likely they don t want to hear what the other person is thinking.

Deep down married people are trapped in a conundrum. You want to know your spouse on a deeper level, to connect more and share more with them, but you open yourself up to not liking what they think or feel about something. To put it another way, you want a more expressive spouse, but want to control what they express.

In order to get closer to another person, you risk loosing yourself. Every person in marriage faces a continuum of separateness and togetherness. Me versus we. The desire to chart your own course in life and the desire to connect with another person.

The psychobabble term for this is differentiation. It s the ability to handle these two ends of the continuum without going to either extreme. Now this doesn t mean you are able to remain balanced in the middle, differentiation means you are able to get close to another person AND keep a clear sense of self.

Differentiation is a term coined by Murray Bowen, who believed there is a theoretical scale of human functioning from low to high. According to Bowen, there is no normal. He s even quoted as saying there s a little schizophrenia in all of us.

As we begin this series, it will help to define these levels as a framework.

Lower differentiated people-

  • Unable to separate feeling from thinking
  • Reactive emotionally driven
  • Stuck together with or cut off from family and/or significant others
  • Conform (chameleon) or rebel (bully)
  • Need to control functioning of Others
  • Less flexible, less adaptable, more emotionally dependent
  • Easily stressed into dysfunction, difficult to recover from dysfunction
  • Inherit a high percentage of all human problems
  • Life course determined by what feels right

Higher differentiated people-

  • Able to access thinking in high anxiety
  • Responsive thoughtful consideration
  • Connected with significant others while maintaining separate Self
  • Self-defined, Self-validating
  • Focused on control of Self functioning
  • More flexible, more adaptable, more emotionally independent
  • Cope better with life stresses, recover rapidly from stress induced dysfunction
  • Remarkably free of human problems, lives are more orderly and successful
  • Life course based on principled beliefs (Bowen, 1978)

Next, we ll explore more in depth the emotional reactivity found in many important relationships.
Until then, where are you on the differentiation scale? Be honest. No rose colored glasses. And again, this is about you and your level, not your spouse.

I’ll be posting articles I like from here often, let me know what you think…Sarah

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