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.
Many of us crave to be in love with our special person. A lot of us grow up believing that when we find the right partner our lives will be wonderful. So finding the right mate often takes a lot of energy and because it’s so important often times we need proof inside ourselves that we have made the right choice.
But finding the right person is no guarantee that you will be happy or be able to feel love. These are skills that many people have yet to learn but insist that the mate provide them just the same.
One of the most challenging parts of being in a relationship. is what to do when partners misunderstand each other, because misunderstandings can often lead to hurt feelings.
I saw this situation play out recently as I worked with a couple during counseling. I first met the wife who told me about her husband, who she said she loved but who was always unhappy. She didn’t know what to do about it.
She even said he sometimes was mean–so mean she did not know how to handle his moods. I listened, but being a counselor I listen with therapeutic ears. I know that when people are unhappy and they are angry it is because something inside of them feels terrible.
When we consider our partner when we feel upset, we are staying in the relationship. When we sit in our own feelings because we have been hurt and stay mad or sad, we stay alone, even if we are in a relationship, we will feel alone.
This is one of the hardest things for couple to understand. Here’s what I often see when counseling a couple: both have been hurt and are distanced from their mate. Both feel that their partners should do something different to make them feel better.
I had this idea recently and it came to me while walking my dog. She is an old girl, a small white little one. I was noticing as we were just wandering down the sidewalk that we were in sync. Both of us were stride by stride.
And that’s when it hit me, we have cultivated this ease at walking together by doing the same thing over and over again. And in that moment when I was noticing it, it felt like the best thing in the world. Just the two of us, just us.
Then I flashed to other habits that I enjoy in my life, and I immediately thought of the time I spend in the morning with my husband, just sitting in our den, reading the newspaper, drinking tea or coffee and just being.
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.
I was talking to a friend the other day when I said something that made me think, “Wow, I have to write a blog about this.” What I said was we have to remember who our special person is, instead of focusing on what they are doing.
Let me explain. We love our person because they just feel right to us. We know it on the inside. No one is able to see this, only us. No one can feel this like we feel it, either.
When it is right, we just know it. And then we just throw in with everything we have and try and make a life. So, we start from where we are knowing what we want. We love our mate and we want to always feel this love.
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.
Every time we blame our partner for something that has gone wrong in our life, we hold them responsible for our discomfort. We are placing them in what I like to call a “cause and effect” system. You get hurt: they caused it. You blame them: that is the effect.
The reason I know this system so well is because I grew up in it. In my house when I was young, if something happened, you looked for who was to blame, and then you let them have it. It seemed to work, or not in my family, but it did not work when I partnered with my mate.
He did not grow up the same and was not used to being held accountable when I became unhappy. He always looked like a deer in the headlights, wondering why I was having a meltdown aimed at him.
All of us feel like leaving when we get mad. It’s just something that happens to us when we are in relationships with others. We get our feelings hurt and we have to get away as soon as possible. We can’t help it. Getting away is just the quickest way to end our suffering, or is it?
I know the times I have grabbed my dog and headed out the door to get some relief from an argument I had with my boyfriend I was just protecting myself from further pain. I had to go. I had to go cool off and figure out what just happened.