Masks in Marriage
Most of us wear them, especially when first married. Why? Because we hide. Just like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden we hide because we think we are not “Enough”. Not good enough, smart enough, rich or sexy or strong or thin enough and the list goes on. All the lies from Satan, that we so quickly believe, will affect our marriage.
A good marriage is a gift from God and he wants it to be an unmasked marriage. Individually, we need to be who we are, bumps, bruises and all. Then, together, we lean on each other and grow into the wonderful life that God has planned for us.
Read on to discover how to Unmask your Marriage.
Beyond the Masquerade by Dr. Julianna Slattery
“Would you stop goofing around, Bill? Every time I bring up a serious issue, you think it’s a big joke.”
“Well, someone has to bring a little levity to this family. ‘The sky is falling! Josh got a B minus on his report card; how’s he going to get into college?’ For goodness sake, Tracy, chill out!”
You don’t even have to know what Bill and Tracy started arguing about to understand their problem. Their intimacy and communication are stymied by the masks they wear. No matter the problem of the day, they fall into the same pattern – he plays the comedian; she takes the part of the perfectionist.
Masks come in many forms: comedian, perfectionist, victim, know-it-all, peacemaker, wallflower, overachiever. Starting in adolescence, we learn to rely on superficial identities that define our place in the world. As we mature, our masks become more sophisticated and entrenched in our personalities.
By wearing masks, we make our relationships safer and more predictable. We protect ourselves from rejection, presenting the “me” that others will embrace or accept. What if others knew the fears, insecurities and thoughts behind my mask?”
By wearing masks, we make our relationships safer and more predictable. We protect ourselves from rejection, presenting the “me” that others will embrace or accept. What if others knew the fears, insecurities and thoughts behind my mask?
Masks in marriage
You might think that the commitment and intimacy of marriage would make authentic communication easier. If you share a bathroom, bed and checkbook with someone, why hide behind a mask?
Ironically, marriage is often where we become most guarded – because no other relationship is potentially more hurtful. Although being betrayed by a friend or co-worker stings, the rejection of a spouse is devastating. We cannot simply walk away from wounds inflicted in marriage. So, we choose to stay safely behind masks rather than reveal our vulnerability.
What lies behind the mask
Our masks might be one of the greatest threats to intimacy in marriage. In fact, many people understand their spouses in terms of their masks, never considering what might lie beneath: “Joe is a workaholic.” “Sara is someone who can never say no.” “Kris is the life of the party, but she’s a grump once she gets home.” “Never start an argument with Keith; he won’t ever let it go.”
Knowing each other behind the masks, however, helps couples understand why they respond the way they do. I have been privileged to sit in counselling sessions in which a husband and wife really see each other for the first time. She sees his fear of failure behind his perfectionism. He sees how terrified she is to trust his leadership because of the ways her father abused his authority.
In some ways, we are all scared kids in a grown-up world, afraid of failure and rejection. Our masks help us feel in control. The intimacy we desperately long for, however, can only be established once we reveal our vulnerability.
Removing your mask
Here are three suggestions I often give to couples who are trying to remove the masks in their marriage:
- Someone has to go first. People often ask me, “How do you pry the mask off someone you love?” The only mask you can take off is your own. What masks do you wear in front of your spouse? What vulnerable feelings or fears lie beneath?
- Express the desire to create a safe environment. Unfortunately, many marriages have evolved into interpersonal war zones. Unmasking is unthinkable, given toxic exchanges from the past. If your marriage falls into this category, you and your spouse need to set some ground rules to establish a foundation of safety. A trained counsellor can help you begin this process.
- Learn to ask and listen. People love to talk about themselves. Even shy and reserved people will gladly unload their thoughts and feelings if you ask the right questions and show them you genuinely want to know.
Authenticity and unconditional love
The Biblical ideal of marital oneness includes authenticity and unconditional love. Our marriages, scarred by sin, will never achieve perfection, but we can strive toward God’s design by choosing to relate to one another beyond the masquerade.
Unmasked Marriage Thoughts
“To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow–this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.”
– Elizabeth Gilbert
“You don’t love someone for their looks, or their clothes, or for their fancy car, but because they sing a song only you can hear.”
– Oscar Wilde
“When you love someone, you love them as the person they are, and not as you’d like them to be.”
– Leo Tolstoy
“To know him fully, to love him unconditionally, to respect him always, to forgive him often, to embrace him closely, this is the gift of marriage.”
– Jennifer Smith