Couples looking for ways to improve their relationships often come to counseling. They often bring me their latest fight or argument as evidence of their difficulty. I listen to people’s stories of what followed arguments. I sense the hurt feelings and the sadness that accompanies these fights. Sometimes there are tears. Almost all the time there is anguish and disappointment.
It’s hard to think that these feelings would be appropriate considering the circumstances, but they are. It’s hard to talk about what doesn’t work. It’s hard to bring up the stuff that makes both people feel bad. But without a roadmap I can’t see what needs repair. I have to get a three dimensional view of a couple’s communication. Often, it’s not what is being said that reveals the truth.
It happens to all of us.
We hold on to our thoughts and don’t say them because we are afraid of hurting the other person’s feelings. We stuff them down inside and just stay silent.
We may grouse about them later with someone else, but most of the time we don’t ever say what we intended to the person who we wanted to say it to.
More than anything, most couples are looking for a happy relationship. People want to feel good about their life and their mate. Some couples live in relationships where they can wish they could be happy.
Are you waiting for something to happen or wondering when you will feel happy again? Maybe it’s time to examine what you may be carrying that could be preventing it. Is it possible you may be carrying around some resentment toward your mate?
Couples are sometimes embarrassed to tell me how they communicate, especially in a heated argument. They often blame one another for making them feel terrible. I usually hear something like, “He always does this,” “She never stops doing that.”
Both people are locked in their pattern of responding to the other. These patterns cement over time. When people get to the end of their rope they say the most emphatic thing to the other person so they can to be heard. Sometimes it’s really harsh. And when a couple gets to this point they are locked in dueling tirades.
Sometimes when people call to find out about couples counseling I can hear panic in their voice. I can sense a feeling of worry and fear. Something broke and the person on the phone doesn’t know how to fix it and that’s why they are calling.
This is a terrible place to find yourself: not knowing if you can make it in your relationship, wondering if it’s broken, and daring to hope it can ever be better. All this is pressing on the individual who is making the call. It’s a helpless kind of feeling. It’s as if their past experience amounts to nothing, and they must do something radical to survive.
Most people who grow up believing in the power of love don’t understand why relationships fall apart, especially when people love each other. Why isn’t love enough to keep people together?
Falling in love is one of the most wonderful parts of being human. When we feel connected to another person our soul feels as if it has found a home. We feel understood and safe. We feel whole. This is the most exhilarating time in a relationship. It is also a temporary phase.
Even when couples want to improve their relationship, if resentment has built up between them it will stand in the way. Both know it’s there, and no one knows what to do about it. So what can you do? One way is to seek counseling learn how to get rid of it.
Unfortunately the resentment can’t just be destroyed; it’s become a part of the person who is holding on to it. It’s with them when they wake in the morning and think of their mate. It’s there when they talk to their friends. It’s present in a conversation with their partner. It’s always there, like a thick fog that surrounds everything.
Sometimes with couples there is an imbalance. One person may feel drained because he or she does everything they can think of to make the relationship work. They give everything to their partner and to the relationship. They are under the impression that if they continue to give, if they give more than any other person ever could, if they do everything imaginable they will save the relationship.
They might even take this concept one step further by believing that if the relationship fails it’s because they did not do enough.
All of us get triggered by things that hit us in our sore spots. Usually these are unexpressed hurts from a long time ago that are still as tender as they were when they occurred.
And when something in our present day life touches that spot we react. Everyone who has these tender areas reacts. We usually keep them stored up inside our bodies and we leave them alone. But when something touches it, we might have a very big reaction.
Oftentimes when there is a couple and there are disagreements it usually comes down to two people digging into their own positions. We are all individuals, and when we think or believe something and our partner is thinking or believing in something else, well then there is a standoff.
Two people who love each other but are unable to hear each other. This happens countless times to people in relationships. So, what do we have to do about it to make it better?