It is easy to dream of how blissful living on a beautiful island would be, but in the context of relationships, island life is not so blissful. The reality is that island life in relationships is really a solitude that can leave us with a terrible sunburn. Nobody enters a relationship with the desire to feel alone and the truth is that as humans, we need relationships. Let’s be clear, if you are living on an island in your relationship right now, you are not alone. We know personally what this can feel like, but we also know you don’t have to stay on the island. There are a few things we can get really burned by in island life:
One of the reasons we can find ourselves living on an island is because of secrets. Secrets cause us to withhold intimacy and create shame. Secrets are often kept out of fear of being rejected and the story we can tell ourselves is “if they knew __, then they wouldn’t love me or be with me”. We can easily justify keeping a secret with the goal of protecting our partner and avoiding any consequences that our actions may have earned us. What this actually does is protect the secret (not our partner), and avoid the disclosure.
Trauma and sexual partners can also be kept a secret often times because there is a lot of shame and comparison that revolves around these issues. When you choose to bring your skeletons into the light, there is healing and those things can no longer be used against you by the enemy.
Life on an island is very lonely and creates Isolation. What isolation does in our relationships is it positions us for temptations. Temptation will also come in attractive packages. It is often believed that temptation disappears when you get married and you aren’t susceptible to being attracted to others. What many newly married couples find is that they spend more time together dating than they do after marriage because they would think they don’t have to try as hard now that they are doing more life together. This is the furthest from the truth.
When loneliness creeps in, things that never mattered before become a big deal. Suddenly, you begin seeing those missing pieces in other places. Easily, an attraction can build then a belief that “if my spouse really loved me, then he/she would ___” forms. Nobody chooses this but how does loneliness creep in? Leftovers.
Loneliness is built by leftovers and no, we don’t mean that to-go box you have sitting in your refrigerator. Leftovers happen when you have given your all - your energy, your effort, and even your emotional margin to everyone else but when you get home, you have nothing left. Your spouse should get the full platter; you have to choose a life of no leftovers. What does this mean?
This means our spouses should be getting the best parts of us, hearing our news before anyone else, and be our go-to confidant. This sets up your spouse to be a priority in your marriage. In this age of technology, it has never been easier to communicate with your spouse. Our spouse should always get the best - physically, mentally, and emotionally.
We walk around with unresolved hurts by not talking about things when they come up which is often out of fear of a fight, what our partner may think, hurting our partner, shame, etc. When we do this, we are literally walking around with an open wound and the only way to heal a wound is with a safe other. Emotional safety for our spouse to share openly even if it doesn’t feel good to hear is essential for healing those wounds. Until the wound is healed, our focus tends to stay on the hurt; therefore, it is important to resolve conflict and wounds quickly and thoroughly.
In our experience, we often hear couples quote the Bible as it says to not let the sun go down on our anger; what this actually means is choosing to pause the conflict and come into loving agreement such as “I know we are not going to have this solved before bed; I really am angry with you but I love you and I am for you. I know we will figure this out tomorrow.” It is important to pause when you are tired because our emotions go unchecked and deciding that sleeping on the couch is NEVER an option. Unresolved hurt/open wounds is where isolation and loneliness sneaks in. To not do life on an island is you have to be willing to face your hurt with your partner head-on.
The 80/20 rule is based on the fact that nobody is perfect. Your spouse could be 80% of everything you ever wanted but likely after the honeymoon phase wears off, you noticed they are missing about 20%. The danger in this comes when you focus on the 20% missing in your spouse because you will begin seeing these deficits in other people and places. If you left the 80% in search of the 20%, you would find that you had more of what you wanted, which is already at home. Also, if you go looking f
or the deficits, the 20%, in your spouse, you will find them but the same is true if you go looking for the 80% in your spouse. The truth is that your strengths were designed to fill the gap in your partner. You can choose to die on the hill of the 20% and live life on an island or you can choose the 80% hill and live in bliss.
It is likely that you have found yourself in one or more of the sections we have mentioned here, but the biggest takeaway we hope you gain from this is that you are not alone and you don’t have to stay on the island. Two more quick takeaways you can implement right now to get off island life is to one build an attitude of gratitude. Something drew you to this person, make a list - mentally or literally - of the things you love and are grateful for in your spouse. This will keep you focusing on the 80%. The second takeaway is defining where you can take responsibility as to how you may be contributing to cultivating island life in your marriage. Look at you today. A good gauge for whether or not you are living island life is when you are in proximity to your spouse, do you feel peace?
Friend, make the choice today to stop doing life on an island. If you feel stuck, we highly encourage you and your spouse to attend one of our upcoming events and/or sign up for couples coaching!