Sometimes in a relationship one person feels like they are being told what to do. This situation usually feels awful. The one being told often feels like a child. It also puts the one who is directing in the awkward position of sounding like a parent.
I see this situation in some couples. Both have dug in to their positions. They may have figured out a way to survive the imbalance, but both remain annoyed at the other person and sometimes there’s even resentment.
Most of us who have been in a relationship might be guilty of a common mistake: we assumed we know what our partner’s thinking. We might even go further and tell ourselves that we even know what they will say. This is surprisingly common when two people know each other well.
Thinking we know our partner’s thoughts becomes a problem when it prevents communication. If we tell ourselves what they think and might say, we limit the potential for dialog. Worse still, we might react to an imagined scenario and get frustrated or angry. All of this happening without a conversation, just entirely in our heads!
Even long-time couples can wind up in oppressive-feeling situations. Both people seek relief from their partner as they grow frustrated. Exhaustion and feeling drained traps them in a system of frustration.
Some couples tough out challenging situations, hoping they’ll improve on their own. Sometimes they do. They often don’t. When that happens people often go from overwhelmed and exhausted to angry and resentful.
The relationship might even feel doomed once couples reach this stage. It feels so broken they have to break up. However, even “broken” relationships are often salvageable.
We’ve all lied at some point. Maybe it was big; maybe it was small. We’ve all learned the consequences of getting caught. Then we realize it’s better to be honest than wonder whether or when the truth will emerge.
Lying keeps secrets from the ones we love. We might even think we are protecting them. We assume not telling them is best, because telling them would hurt them, and we care about their feelings. Or we may simply fear the consequences. We may worry that we’ll be in trouble and people will get angry with us.
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.