I was thinking about the concept that most people in relationships and in their lives hold some great vision of what their life would look and feel like if it was only better.
I see this play out in many of the counseling sessions I have with couples. A couple will come in and they tell me what is happening in their relationship and how the relationship isn’t working. They might also give me a window into what they have been waiting for, their ideal partnership, the one that runs perfectly.
It is common to be misunderstood in your relationship. I’m a couples counselor. The number one thing people want fixed, when they come to my therapy room, is “being misunderstood.” Only they don’t call it a misunderstanding: they call it “communication”.
So if we are not being understood by our partner, or we don’t know how to communicate with them, what do we do? Well there are a lot of things that I know about, and none of them come naturally to us at all. But we can learn them.
As a counselor, I often meet people who love their partners, but who just wish their beloveds were a bit different. They tell me, “If only my partner were such and such, or did this and that, then everything would be better!”
I hear this in one form or another many, many times. I know when people come in they just want to feel better in their relationship. I also know if they knew what to do, they would do it. I understand that most people try everything they know before coming in for counseling, because everyone who has ever been in a relationship believes that they can fix their own problems. Who needs someone from the outside to weigh in?
In most relationships people have good intentions. They often think of their partners and try and do things that would please them. This is common. But in some relationships, the couple doesn’t talk to each other about what they like and therefore there could be a lot of misunderstanding.
I witnessed this recently with a couple I met. They have great intentions and actions designed for the one they love, but there is no discussion about these good thoughts and actions and whether they are what the other person wants. Each person just stays inside their own mind and keeps doing what they have always been doing and they don’t get what they really want which is understanding from the other person.
Letting go of pain in relationships isn’t easy.
It’s hard to let go when we get our feelings hurt, especially if it’s our partner doing the wounding. It is not uncommon for many of us to get our feelings hurt and not be able to talk about it. Sometimes the pain and discomfort can even make someone stop talking for days.
This is serious, especially for the person who feels the hurt. He or she is suffering. And it feels terrible. Many couples have one or more people who have this pattern and it’s just painful for both.
Most of us if we are in a relationship often feel that our partner does things that hurt us. I know I have been in this position too many times to count. But I know in my heart of hearts that my partner loves me. I mean he really loves me.
And I bet that in your tender moments, if you look at your partner, you will tell yourself the same thing: “My partner loves me too.”
But when we get our feelings hurt, we forget that we are loved and instead feel unwanted. When we get upset, we put a protective layer around our heart and maybe lash out or pull our feelings inside ourselves and feel terrible. We try to defend ourselves when we get hurt. It’s only natural.
Sometimes in relationships we find ourselves in certain patterns. Let’s say you are very aware of what is not working well in the relationship and you let your partner know when something isn’t right. Now add to this how your partner doesn’t even respond or just seems to not be listening no matter how hard and forceful you are telling them.
This is unfortunately common, and it often happens with men and women. Women are sometimes better at describing what is making them uncomfortable. Maybe we learned this from our verbal mothers. Men on the other hand are not as skilled, maybe because they learned from dads who didn’t say much.
Whatever contributed to how we grew up, we still carry patterns from our youth. When those patterns conflict with our partner’s, we have problems. Let’s look at a couple I know.
When we are in a relationship, all of us have one thing in common: we want to be happy. That is why we enter into a relationship with our special person, and it is likely you felt something amazing when you first got involved.
Your feelings accompanying your love probably felt like nothing else you ever experienced, and you wanted them to last and last and last. Unfortunately, when we couple, all of us are in this kind of woozy state that tells us our person knows us and gets us and will always make us feel this way. This is the woozy state of first love.
But after a while we all go through the part where we realize that they just didn’t know us as well as we thought and we certainly didn’t know certain things about them either. Then the misunderstandings begin and often we just push them aside and tell ourselves that it isn’t that bad.
Sometimes, couples come in for counseling and on the surface, everything seems so great on the surface that you’d wonder whether anything’s even wrong. They laugh at each other’s jokes and seem to get along well. They both appear to be on good behavior, and this comes across as the opposite to feeling and being unhappy. But even though it looks great on the outside, underneath this practiced way of presenting, I know everything is not alright.
Many couples fall into this pattern. They hold everything together when they are with other people, but behind closed doors they are different. That’s when they can’t pretend anymore. That’s when they are unable to hold up the nice view of themselves with their mate, and things just start to go haywire.
How do we learn to be in a relationship? This is a question people have been grappling with for centuries. Some people come to earth just knowing what is the right way to treat another human. Some of us are taught, and then there are others who just struggle.
I used to struggle in my relationship with my husband-to-be. In the early days (20 years ago, before I was a therapist) I was pretty unhappy. And he was unhappy too. We didn’t know what to do to get better, so we went to a counselor.