All of us get mad at our mates. Most couples wonder whether it’s normal in relationships. It is. But so many people think that if they fall in love with someone, they will always feel that wonderful feeling and it will never change.
I call this problem the “happy ever after” condition. Somewhere in all of us, there is this idea that when we meet our person, we will be happy forever more.
All of us in relationships have thought about breaking up with our partner at some time or another. In fact maybe many of us have done it at least once. It is very common for couples to feel so hurt and misunderstood that they have to end things in order to feel better.
This is really human nature. When we are upset, most of us close up and can’t really communicate about what happened to us. And in some cases people are in such pain that the only way they can see their way through to feeling better is to cut off the offender so that can have some relief.
We all do some sort of this. Some of us yell because we are upset when we are hurt. Some just hold their feelings inside and wait for everything to calm down before trying to communicate again.
And there are those who are in such distress that their only recourse is to end things in the moment with finality. “I can’t do this anymore. I am done.” There were some words like this and maybe some curse words too.
I think it comes as a surprise to most of us that the person we love usually is the one who causes us the most pain and suffering. Many of us imagine living happily ever after with the one we fall in love with.
We have these dreams of everything just being beautiful and romantic and perfect. And maybe it is for a while. But somewhere along the line things start to change and that perfect feeling of everything being just wonderful starts to diminish.
All of us get mad over things. Some of us keep our mad inside our bodies and don’t say anything even when we get upset. The rest of us just release the anger—usually on others.
Being the angry one and sharing it is the way I am wired. I have been getting mad since I was a toddler. I wish I had a different experience of having this feeling, but I do not. I grew up with this feeling and I learned also that yelling, stomping my feet, or just being ornery created attention for me, and that was better than being left alone. I guess you could say I learned to get taken care of when I got angry.
People frequently ask me about how to stop an argument. When they do, I’d love to give them a fool-proof way to get it done. I wish it were as simple as saying one or two words, instantly turning two people amidst taking each other’s heads off into docile, compliant, happy people free to go about their business as if nothing happened.
Unfortunately, nothing short of physical distance stops an argument. I know this, because I have spent much of my early life arguing. I have never been able to stop arguing once I get started.
Constant fighting in a relationship can be exhausting. It can also be frustrating and disappointing. And there are many, many other emotions that might be felt too.
Constantly fighting in a relationship is just hard. And it makes the tender parts so few and far between that couples might be asking themselves if the relationship is even worth it. So why do couples do this?
Sometimes we learn how to argue a point of view, if we grow up in a family that practiced using this technique. If so then we have some built-in skills to take into our adult relationships.
But for many of us, we didn’t learn effective ways to get our points across without having some sort of disagreement. Disagreements are a natural part of relationships, but most people don’t expect to argue with the one they love.
No two people are exactly the same and as a result each will have some different thoughts and ideas about how things should be. This is where disagreements begin. Two people—couples—will have differing views.
So, how to handle these disagreements? That is the question for every relationship on the planet. Here are some of the skills I like offer to clients.
I was running in my neighborhood one Thanksgiving Day. The streets were empty, and smells filled the air. I was thinking about the meal I would be eating later, with loved ones, when a sharp yell pierced the air. It was a woman screaming at a child.
I heard it come from a home across the street so I couldn’t see who was yelling, but I got an instant picture. At first I felt pain for the child, but then the mind traveled to the one who was yelling and I realized something else. It was something familiar I must have felt as a child, something this woman could be feeling at this moment.
Even though all of us are different, if we blame someone or something for our discomfort, then we have one thing in common: we’re internally wired the same. There are many of us in the world. And it’s my guess that if you blame or criticize when you are unhappy, you have heard about your behavior from others all your life.
I know I have. When I was little my older sister called me “the angry child,” because of my loud, blaming ways. I didn’t intentionally come into the world this way. I didn’t have a conversation with myself when I was learning how to express myself that said, “Start blaming. It’s a good system.”
No, that’s not what happened. I imagine it was my circumstances that encouraged me to use my voice to let my caregivers know I needed something. I just used my vocal cords to be heard. This habit just morphed over the years and I got better at leveling the criticism or blame when I got upset.