Being three is a year of big feelings. I wonder what it must feel like to spend years learning to communicate, only to find that people just don’t do what you tell them to do. It must be endlessly frustrating that we don’t cut their toast right, can’t repair their broken bananas, make them wear clothes, want them to sleep, and repeatedly say no to every simple request.
How can the people who have always loved and protected you suddenly ignore your needs?
Three year olds are learning that not all wants are needs.
Three year olds are learning that waiting does not kill you.
Three year olds are learning that other people have needs and feelings that make no sense to you.
Three year olds are learning that conflict can be safe.
Three year olds are learning that they are special…but not that special.
Three year olds are learning that boundaries equal security.
Three year olds are learning about fair, and life is not.
Three year olds are learning to hear criticism and still feel loved.
Three year olds are learning that they have a ton of power over themselves and little power over others.
Three year olds are learning that the way you treat people has very serious consequences.
Think about this. That is one hell of a year. And then once they go through it, they get to do it all over again in the pre-teen years with added hormonal intensity.
Most of us didn’t learn all of this Or we learned it mostly…until we forget. The lessons of being three have a huge impact on marriage.
Married people struggle to determine what we want in a relationship and what we need in one.
Married people struggle to be patient as the work takes time.
Married people struggle to respect wants and needs from our partner that seem totally foreign.
Married people struggle to fight fair and feel secure.
Married people struggle to feel special while also making sure our partner feels special.
Married people struggle to find the boundaries that provide security by deepening connection without stifling individuality.
Married people struggle with fair, and marriage is not.
Married people struggle with hearing criticism and still feeling loved.
Married people struggle with how to own power over themselves without overstepping power over our partners.
Married people struggle with being held accountable for the way we treat the people we love.
This is attachment work. This is why parenting is so freaking hard… and so freaking powerful. This is why maybe all we can do is a bit better for our kids than our parents did for us. This is why I will never run out of clients- marriage is a huge developmental challenge to learn to love and be loved with security and insecurity, with passion and anger.
When the people we love act like 3 year olds, our job is not to rescue or fix or prove to them that life is perfect but to keep your heart open and love their struggle. And then remind them to love our struggle when we do the next 3 year old melt down.