I was talking to a potential client for couples counseling when she asked me if I would be giving her a prescription to follow in order to get better.
I was stunned for a moment and I think in all my years of counseling I have never been asked this. But I do know there is absolutely no way to understand a couple without meeting them, and I don’t have any idea what would be helpful for them, because there is no one size fits all plan for couples.
Communicating feelings in a relationship can be hard. Clients sometimes ask, “I tell him how I feel! Why doesn’t it work?” Let’s look at some differences in how we communicate and the best way we can reach each other.
Some of us are very good at speaking what is happening to us when our feelings get hurt. I know I grew up that way, always saying what I needed to say and hoping someone would listen and help.
This is probably a lifelong habit that many of us are very used to. But some of us in this world are not talkers. Maybe you are partnered with one. I am. He is great at a lot of things, but he doesn’t need to talk about what is happening to his insides. I do.
All of us in this world have basic kindness, compassion and insight. These are human traits that we all have inside of us. Sometimes, though, when there is a fight between partners, we forget our goodness and make our mates the enemies or tell ourselves we are at fault.
This always creates hardship in a relationship between two people. We all couple with the one we love so we can have a good life. We are always drawn to the person who makes us feel alive and at home in a good way.
Letting go of resentment in marriage and other relationships is a complicated process. It is not like having a new thought which magically negates the resentment. No, it takes understanding of what is going on, and it takes work to ease out of it.
And all of us have felt or used resentment at some time or another. And that’s because resentment can happen to us so easily. When we get our feelings hurt, especially by the person we love, we get really wounded.
If we are not able to let our pain out and get healed, well then we put a wall around our heart and protect it so we won’t get hurt again. This starts out to be just a slight cover over the pain, but if we continue to get hurt without healing then we build up a thick concrete wall between our heart and the one we love.
When you get into misunderstandings or disagreements with your mate, what do you do? All of us have a reaction, and that is normal. People will not always understand each other even if they love each other dearly. And when the misunderstandings occur, most of us get our feelings hurt.
Sometimes those hurt feelings cause us to either pull our hurt feelings inside ourselves and say nothing. Other times, we do the opposite and lash out at those who hurt our feelings. This combination of systems plays out often in relationships.
When we are criticized by the person we love it feels like we’ve been stung. It is unforgiving and painful. Criticism from our partner can even feel like judgment, like we have done something wrong, and like we are not good enough.
So, feeling judged in a relationship is quite common. We really love our partners, but there are things about them we don’t like and we want those things to change. So, a lot of us just tell our partners what we don’t like. And when we do this, we are criticizing them.
We are probably just telling them about a behavior or an action or a misstatement or something small, but when hearing it from a mate it can feel as if it is everything. We might even start to believe that our partner doesn’t even like us, and that is the farthest thing from the truth.
Resentment in relationships is all too familiar to us. It’s when our anger towards someone gets so hard it turns into a wall of everything we don’t like about that person. That’s what we normally refer to as “resentment.”
We treat resentment like it is the most important thing we can feel. We hold on to it so tightly that we hope the one we are using it against can feel it too. Resentment is like a cold brick wall. It’s so strong and solid, the person it’s directed towards would have to be dead not to feel it.
That’s what resentment feels like. We notice it. We feel it. But what underlies it is even more interesting to me. I read this recently: resentment in relationships stems from self-pity.
We humans are funny. We learn as individuals how to take care of ourselves. Most of us learn all the skills needed to become successful in our lives. Society teaches us basic bodily activities: eating, bathing, dressing, etc.. We learn the skills that help us with a career or trade.
We are even good at selecting a mate. But that’s where our skills end.
When it comes to relationships or matters of the heart we act like the other is responsible for taking care of us. “What?” you might ask? Well, think about it. You might blame your partner when you’re upset.
And if you aren’t a blamer, then you might silently expect your mate to do a whole lot more for you than they are doing right now.
When we love our partners we really love them. But when we are mad at them, we don’t love them as much. I think this is probably the most common behavior humans exhibit in every relationship they are in.
It makes sense, in a way. When we get our feelings hurt, we pull ourselves inside and hide so we can take care of our pain. I know I do. But when we do that we disconnect from everything and everyone.
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?