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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
Often when people call for counseling and I ask them what is the matter, most of the time I hear, “We just can’t communicate.”
This is a catch all phrase that means we don’t understand each other and it is hard on both of us. I get this, especially since I have been working with couples for 20 plus years.
I know that there is a person who feels very deeply about life and another person who thinks almost exclusively in their head. I have seen this in every couple I have ever counseled.