I wonder if we ever really get to know ourselves fully.
When I consider the intricacy of all it means to be a human being, I am not sure we do. But we can for sure become more self-aware.
And doing that is now a daily practice for me—a practice of curiosity and fascination with myself. I got into the practice of doing that because, in my marriage, I realised I wasn’t as self-aware as I thought!
As many people do, I made the mistake of focusing on my spouse and not myself. Like anyone else, I don’t always see aspects of myself. I certainly didn’t know how self-awareness strengthens a marriage.
It’s easy to shy away from those unseen parts when others inconveniently shine a light on them.
Introspection and reflection are challenging.
Self-awareness has relational healing power.
Some parts of ourselves seem hidden from our focus, or rather we choose not to see them. In any event, these are likely the parts of ourselves that we, at some point, had to hide to receive love and affection from caregivers.
These parts are also known as our Shadow. In our relationships, our partner sees what we desperately try to hide, and we do the same with them.
Self-awareness is an opportunity for healing and growth individually and in the relationship.
We clean the windscreen and see more clearly.
We begin not to overlook ourselves and figure out how well we really do know that person in the mirror.
For example, feeling powerless and dependent on a spouse may lead to manipulative behaviours we do not see.
Our ability for self-reflection involves knowing how we think and act in the moment and understanding how we affect others and how we are perceived.
Relationships – the teaching ground of awareness
Without a doubt, our relationships are the best classroom we will ever have to get to know ourselves better. A relationship always reflects the inner work we have completed and what remains.
Therefore, becoming self-aware is one of the most crucial steps to creating your desired relationship.
It’s a game changer when you recognise, understand and express your emotions, thoughts, wants and needs honestly because you know who you are. You’ve explored the heights and depths of your experience and the different dimensions of your personality.
So why does this make a difference?
Because now, when you both do the work, two people trust each other because they know, like and trust themselves. Now they can allow and appreciate each other for who they are instead of who they want each other to be.
This is why self-trust is critical. As you take responsibility for how you are showing up in the relationship without shame or guilt, you, at the same time, will be able to see more evidently what isn’t your stuff without shaming or blaming your spouse.
3 Ways self-awareness can improve your marriage
By developing a deep self-awareness, you gain invaluable insights that allow you to boost the connection in your marriage in profound ways. This is how
Authenticity means that we reveal and allow ourselves to be our true selves. That sounds woo-woo. But it boils down to the capacity to express your uniqueness. We are all different.
Many difficulties in marriage occur because partners subtly try to make each other the same or conform in some way. In survival mode, as children or now in a marriage, we struggle to be authentic because we are afraid.
So often, communication breaks down because somebody doesn’t say what’s on their mind because of fear. And sometimes, they are unsure of what’s on their mind because parts of themselves are so deeply buried.
You can’t have sound, connected, open, honest conversations when you cannot express those things. So when we intimately tune in to our inner selves, we can express ourselves more intimately.
When we communicate in this way, it fosters understanding and trust. So how does combination combine with self-awareness to strengthen your marriage?
When you are willing to share with your partner who you are because you know who you are, and you can see that they accept you for who you are, things shift for the better as you feel more comfortable expressing your emotions and thoughts without fear of judgment.
Empathy and understanding
In-depth knowledge of yourself enables you to cultivate a profound empathy and understanding towards your partner.
When we accept ourselves, we’re more likely to embrace others. The better we understand ourselves, the better we become at being sensitive to the emotions and the experiences of others. You recognise their triggers, biases and limitations.
The scars of your wounds become the healing balm for your partner’s wounds. With this in mind, disagreements or conflicts have the potential for moments of healing, compassion and growth.
Self-awareness allows you to take things less personally, step into your partner’s shoes, acknowledge their perspective, and find common ground to strengthen your relationship.
You can say sorry and mean it.
Many people fear apologising because they feel criticised, judged and blamed and have done nothing wrong. In reality, such defensiveness is likely because they are triggered and, instead of being able to see the situation objectively, are caught in hurt.
Others quickly offer apologies and inappropriately accept responsibility for the same reasons. With self-awareness, you create space between what your partner is saying, how you respond, and what thoughts come up when you feel judged. Perhaps you feel attacked or unfairly treated.
It is easy to think that your partner is attacking you and confuse, ‘I feel you always put your friends first.’ with ‘You’re disloyal!’ So what is true when you’ve rearranged date night with your spouse so you can meet up with a friend?
Can your partner express their hurt without you judging yourself or feeling attacked? There may be a part of you that is averse to commitment. What would that feel like to recognise?
When we know ourselves, we notice the telltale signs of defensiveness and can acknowledge how we show up without the defensive barriers. We say sorry and mean it.
How to develop self-awareness and make your relationship last
Here are some valuable ways to develop self-consciousness.
Working with a coach will help you better understand unseen parts of your personality and hidden beliefs that create the results you are experiencing in your relationship.
Mindfulness allows you to check in with yourself. You become the observer of your inner world. With simple mindfulness practices, you will know how your body and mind interact to shape your actions. The more in tune, you are with yourself, the more you will notice whether you are reacting or responding in certain situations. This is a great way to improve your self-awareness skills whilst strengthening your marriage.
One of my favourites. Our unconscious comes alive at night when we sleep. Dream images reveal our Shadow parts and how we feel about situations we might not know.
When you dream about another person, the dream isn’t necessarily telling you about them but rather an aspect of yourself. Even objects and animals are representations of your inner world.
Consider what these images mean instead of referring to an online dream dictionary. That will give you the information you need to interpret your dream.
If you dream of an old sofa, what comes to mind? Is it worn but cared for like a prized possession, or is it battered? Maybe the sofa was used with little care, like a dumping ground. In this case, the dreamer might feel neglected by her partner and family daily. Equally, she may not take responsibility for their life and not practise self-care while insisting she is okay and feeling resentful.
Keep a journal and write down your dreams.
Pay attention to yourself-talk
We talk to ourselves constantly, so notice what you say. You can make some notes in a journal. If you catch yourself saying things like ‘I was stupid.‘ there may be underlying self-esteem issues or negative self-beliefs.
These negative beliefs can be projected onto your partner, i.e. you see it in them and not yourself. Once you know this, you can reframe your inner conversation to include positive affirmations to increase self-confidence and self-esteem. You can also change how you relate to your partner.
Learning to differentiate constructive feedback from shaming criticism is essential. Becoming self-aware involves understanding how others see us. Ask a trusted friend to give you 360 feedback. An intimate experience would be to do this with your partner.
Self-awareness is knowing our inner world and understanding how you show up, which determines how others, especially your partner, see you. So in this way, feedback is essential.
Conscious and responsible love requires self-awareness.
Self-awareness is essential in relationships because it cultivates empathy, a growth mindset and resilience.
Consciousness about our inner world and understanding how you up opens the door to growing together with your partner and creating a healing environment where you feel safe sharing and vulnerable with each other.
Self-awareness is a lifelong journey that can constantly amaze us if we fully embrace it.
Get to know yourself and see how self-awareness strengthens your marriage which deepens as you grow.
Over To You
If you’re stuck and curious about how self-awareness can strengthen your marriage or want to explore the impact of the unconscious in your relationship, get in touch for a clarity session. I offer video sessions online via a secure platform.
Or call me today on 07535 864836.
Leave a comment below; I’d love to hear from you.
P.S. PASS IT ON
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© Sandra Harewood 2023
Soul Centred couples therapist, counsellor and Jungian Shadow Work coach Sandra Harewood specialise in working with women and couples stuck at a crossroads in their marriage. Relationships are precious; this is your chance to begin a new journey and experience the connection and intimacy you most deeply desire.