Have you ever worried that your marriage could end? That your husband could leave? That something awful could happen to the amazing family you’ve built? If so, you’re not alone!

In this podcast, a caller asks a question about how to navigate dreams she’s having about her husband leaving. While her marriage is going well, she has fears that it could end with him walking out on their family.

The solution to navigating marital fears (whether evidence based or not) includes managing your mind so you can feel more empowered around what you can control, and let go of the rest.

In this episode, you’ll get tools to help you address your fears head on, as well as put those fears in the backseat so they don’t have a negative impact on your marriage (i.e. so you don’t make your fears true).

Tune in to learn how to navigate fears about the future of your marriage so you can show up as the wife you want to be!

If you’re a mom, you’re in the right place. This is a space designed to help you overcome challenges and live your best life. I’d love for you to join me inside the Mom On Purpose Membership where we take this work to the next level.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Welcome to Mom On Purpose, where it’s all about helping moms overcome challenges and live their best lives. My hope is by being here, you are more inspired to become the mom you are made to be. I’m Natalie, your host, a wife, boy, mom, dog, mama, Chicagoan, and former lawyer turned professionally, certified coach. If you’re here to grow, I can help. Let’s go.

Hello, my beautiful friends. Welcome back to the podcast. I’m so happy to be here with you today during the summertime. I don’t know about you, but I love this time of year, particularly when I’m living in the Midwest. When I’m living in the south, it is a different story, but I am soaking up the sunshine and the nice weather and kind of, you know, hopeful that I start to feel better, um, coming up here soon as I get into the middle of my pregnancy.

So all fun and amazing good things happening. I hope your summer is starting off well. Those of you with school-aged kids are surviving and, and hopefully a little bit more as you round out that, month of May that I know can be so challenging and exciting and fun and all the things with all of those transitions. With that, let’s shift gears and talk about today’s podcast episode, which is all about fearing the unknown in your marriage, specifically that your husband could potentially leave. I know that so many of you tell me these tools, these relationship practices really help you in your marriages, in your relationships with your in-laws and your family of origin and obviously with your children. And so today we’re going to focus specifically on marriage, but pay attention to see if there are any other ways that you can apply these tools because we’re always getting to the root cause of the challenge and then applying it so that you can change the way that you’re thinking and then feeling and then acting and doing it in that order so that it changes from the root.

And that is how you create permanent change. Otherwise, you are kind of, thinking and feeling differently, then you’re acting and there’s this dissonance and it doesn’t work. So with that, if you are someone who wants to get your question answered, all you have to do is call the podcast hotline. I have been loving getting your messages, listening to them and answering them on the podcast. It’s been really fun and I’ve gotten great feedback from you all. So I’m so glad that you’re enjoying it as well. If you would like your question answered, just call 8 3 3 3, ask Nat. That’s 8 3 3 3 2 7 5 6 2 8. Just leave me a voicemail, it’s about a minute long and let me know what I can help you with and you will get a podcast dedicated to that and just some, some free help, some free coaching, some free tools as a way for you to kind of, navigate the challenge or the goal that you are working on. And take it to that next level. Here is today’s caller.

Hi Natalie. Um, I was wondering what your thoughts are regarding this problem. I have recurring nightmares that my husband leaves me. Um, they happen about three to five times a week and have been going on for as long as we’ve been married over 10 years. We are very happily married. I do not have any concerns about our commitment to one another. He’s always loving, caring, supportive and thoughtful toward me and our three kids. The nightmares leave me shaken and impact my day in trying to understand them. I end up thinking that they’re the results of some terrible self-confidence or some subconscious thought that I am unworthy of such a wonderful husband. How can I work on this? Thank you.

Alright, let’s dive in. The first thing that I want to say is that the brain likes to make a big deal out of things. It likes to generalize, it likes to catastrophize, it likes to be dramatic. And where I like to start is just separating out what’s going on into the buckets of is this a fact? Is this a circumstance or is this my story? Is this a thought? Is this a feeling or is this an action? So once I can get clear on the facts versus everything else, then I know what is in my control. So that’s where I want to start with here. What can you control here and what can’t you control? Well, I want to start with assuming that you can’t control your dreams. So I am not a dream expert and I’m sure you know that the part that I’m going to help you on is assuming that these dreams continue.

That is your circumstance, and we’re not going to try to control that. But instead we’re going to control what you think and feel and do IE the meaning that you give the dream. So right now it’s a little bit unclear what the actual dream is to me because the way you describe it is that your husband leaves your family. But we all have a different interpretation of what leaving a family means. So is the dream that you wake up one day and he’s gone and you can’t contact him ever again, you never see him again. Is the dream that he serves you papers and wants a divorce and you have this big custody battle? Is it that he, you know, gets in a fight with you and then wants a separation? What are the specific facts of the dream? This is really important because when we say that someone is leaving us, it implies that they are abandoning us.

And what is at the root of all of this is your fear of abandonment. And that is actually a very normal, normal, healthy human trait that I like to think of as like a, a spectrum. So, some of us have that fear more heightened than others, but everyone, every healthy human being wants to be included in their pack, their family, because for evolutionary purposes, exclusion meant death. So if you were excluded from your pack, from your tribe, from your family, then you would literally die. And so it was really important for the survival part of the brain to evolve, to prioritize being included and not being abandoned. But today, in our modern world, there is no abandonment for adults. And this is so important for you to tell your brain. And so when your brain interprets whatever’s happening in the dream as you being left, it’s triggering that fear of abandonment, that primal, primitive part of the brain that is wired to seek attachment.

And knowing this will give you so much power. So the first part of this is getting really clear on what exactly happens in the dream. What are the exact facts and leave any subjective words like he leaves us out of it. So either he files for divorce, he asks for a separation, he says these words, you know, I wake up and he is gone, he’s disappeared. Whatever the facts are, those are the facts of your dream. So you wake up and you have this actual dream, and then there is the meaning you give the dream. So right now, the meaning you’re giving the dream is he abandons us, right? You’re calling it, he’s leaving us. And then you’re taking a step further and making it mean that there is something wrong with you. Either you have low self-confidence or somehow you’re unworthy. That is probably not going to lead to you feeling very good in your marriage.

What’s happening right now is this primitive part of the brain that’s getting activated, this fear of abandonment. And then you’re making it personal about you taking it on as something you did wrong or some kind of flaw inherently that you have. And that’s going to lead to a lot of feelings, probably of insecurity, maybe anxiousness. Like whenever we think someone’s going to leave us, we almost over attach, right? That anxiety that comes for from fear of abandonment. You might feel disconnected, you might feel avoidant. You didn’t really say what your feelings are. So just notice the way that the way you’re telling the story is right now. Notice how that feels. It’s not going to feel good. I’m certain of that, but it might feel very worrisome. It might feel like anxiety, it might feel disconnected. And seeing that the part that you have the most control over is the narrative that you tell about this dream when you wake up is the story, is the mindset that you have gives you so much power.

Because if you start telling it a completely different story, then you are going to feel exactly how you want to feel in your marriage. So right now, I would say that this fear is in the driver’s seat and we’re not going to try to get rid of the fear, but instead we’re just going to put the fear in the backseat so that instead of making this fear mean something about you and having it have a real impact on your marriage, we’re just going to call it what it is, which is the primitive brain doing what it does, trying to ensure your survival. We’re going to kind of manage your brain a little bit better, assure it that it’s okay and that you can handle anything that comes your way. And in doing so, you might still have the dream, but it’s not going to be so terrifying. It’s not going to be so horrible.

It’s just going to be the sphere that you have. That’s sort of what I like to say is in the backseat. While I do think that telling a really positive empowering story is available to you from your prefrontal cortex because you have a lot of positive things to say about your marriage. You know, you’ve been married for 10 years, you’re happily married, all of these wonderful things, I’m not actually sure that that is the best story to tell to kind of put this fear in the backseat. I actually think that more kind of empowering story to calm this fear of abandonment, part of your brain down would be to tell your brain that it’s very unlikely that anything is going to happen in your marriage. However, if something did happen and your spouse took action to separate, to divorce, to do something unforeseen that you didn’t see coming, that would be okay.

I don’t mean okay, like you would be happy about it, but you would be okay. You would not die. You would figure it out. You would be heartbroken. You would be devastated. It would be worst case scenario and you would survive and you would be okay and you would work through it. Sometimes kind of addressing our fears head on with the worst case scenario is actually more comforting to us than going to, oh, that’s unlikely to happen. That’s, you know, kind of ridiculous. My husband’s so amazing, this could never happen because that fear of abandonment is, is still there. And so it kind of keeps popping up like, well, what if it did? You know, it’s kind of like, well then why do I keep having this dream? And it’s not that your husband is doing anything to trigger this dream, not that you know, you’ve, you’ve said, but it’s just that your brain, for whatever reason has this wiring where the fear of abandonment is showing up in your dreams.

And that’s okay, but instead of trying to say that, that could never happen, it could in, you know, in theory happen. And so if you just tell your brain, if this happened, it would stink, I would not enjoy it. I would feel heartbroken and also I would be, okay. So calm down brain, that’s probably not going to happen, right? 9.9 times outta 10, this is not going to happen. But if it did happen, I would be able to work through my feelings. I would be able to work through the grief, I would be able to work through the heartbreak that I would want to feel and I would be able to move on in my life. And so when you kind of address any fear that you have like that, what you’re showing yourself is that you would be okay. And this is really important because it will calm down that, um, attachment system that’s probably an overdrive if the fear of abandonment is triggered. And so in this kind of new story, the meaning that you’re giving is going to create feelings of what feelings of self-confidence, feelings of self-love, feelings of connection to yourself. And I think those feelings would lead to much better action because you’ll show up more confident, more grounded. You’ll understand that this has nothing to do with your spouse. This is just kind of what your brain’s doing. It’s totally fine and you’ll probably show up in your marriage much more in the way that you want to show up. You won’t have actions that are driven by fear and insecurity. You’ll have actions that are driven more by love and connection and self-confidence. So retell the story that what your primitive brain is doing by having these dreams where you are thinking that your husband is going to separate file for divorce, disappear, whatever it is, is all in an effort to protect you and keep you safe and alive.

And you can tell your brain it’s okay, brain, I am safe, I am connected. And in the event that something happened in my marriage, I would also be okay. It would be hard, it would be challenging, and I would survive. I would work through it. I would have heartbreak and that would be okay too. Making peace with best case scenario and worst case scenario really will calm down those fears regardless of how irrational they seem to be when you are awake and feeling your best. Remember too that to some degree we all have a fear of abandonment and the attachment system is hardwired in us to want to be attached to the people who we love. And so, um, your husband even has this and everyone else who has a healthy functioning brain has this. And so I say that to hopefully assure you that it has nothing to do with, you or your, self-confidence level or your husband being more amazing or, anything like that.

Just so you know. Um, of course I like to think of like that spectrum or that dial where some of us have different fears turned up or down and for whatever reason yours are manifesting in your dreams. But you 100% can rewrite the story that you’re telling about that dream. And hopefully you have some suggestions that came through to you in this message. The last thing that I want to mention here that I think could, could be really helpful that I do for myself, particularly right now actually as I am dreaming more vividly and, sometimes there are kind of scary dreams or at least I feel the fear in the dream is before I go to bed I actually remind myself, okay, I’m probably going to dream and feel scared in my dream. And I can remember during the dream that it is a dream Now, how this looks practically is I just tell myself before bed I’m going to dream and I might feel scared during my dream and I can try to remember that it is a dream during my dream and it really works.

It doesn’t work all of the time, but it does work sometimes. And it’s fascinating ’cause I’ll be sitting there in the dream and I’ll be thinking, oh, I don’t have to be afraid right now because this is a dream. Now, as I said in the beginning, I am not a dream expert. I add that here as sort of a a ps note to share my experience that whenever I am having dreams that, I would rather not be having from whatever’s going on in my subconscious, I, do find that managing the brain ahead of time before I go to bed is actually has been helpful. But that’s sort of trying to control the circumstance here. So whenever you don’t do that or when it doesn’t work or anything like that, and you have that dream, remember to separate out the facts of the dream.

Don’t use any kind of, subjective language like he leaves us or anything like that. But instead state the facts and then tell the story in a way that makes you the hero. And I don’t mean that he is the villain, I just mean that you are the hero of your life, even in really horrible circumstances and heartbreaking circumstances. Circumstances that you would want to think are heartbreaking or horrible. And even then you come out on top, you figure it out, you work through it. And that will feel empowering because that fear-based part of the brain right now is like in the driver’s seat. And this will put it in the backseat. All righrt my friend, thanks so much for calling in. Really amazing question. I think it’s going to be really helpful for so many women who have fears and concerns. You are not the first person who I have coached on, feeling concerned or worried about their spouse leaving them. So this is going to help so many women and hopefully it helped you too. Thanks for tuning in my friends. I will talk with you next week. Take care.

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