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.
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.
I was walking the neighborhood recently with a friend and we passed by a car parked on the street. The windows were down so I could hear a young couple sitting in the front facing each other and having a discussion.
I heard a few words from the man. He was explaining something to the young woman about how his feelings were hurt. I could feel his earnestness, even after just a couple of moments. I also could tell that he was trying really hard to get her to understand him.
All relationships include someone being disappointed at some time. There is no escaping this feeling. This happens because you and your partner are different. You may want to do something that you like and your partner will say NO.
This leads to disappointment. I have experienced this feeling so many times I could not count them. And I have had to understand some of the things about this interaction to not take the experience personally.
Every one of us has hurt someone we care about. Unless we live alone in a cave and don’t interact with another human being, we will sometime in our life be hurting someone we love. It just goes along with being alive and interacting with others.
But when we hurt the person we love and are in relationship with—well, that can weigh heavy on us and make us feel pretty terrible. I know there have been many times I have been cross or said something sharp to my husband. I also know that even the slightest shrug of the shoulder or snappy reply has an effect on him.
So if we do things that are bigger than a rolling of the eyes, like hanging up on our partner, cussing them out, or slamming doors and leaving, well we have made not just a statement, we have made a big impact on the person we love.
I often hear someone in a relationship say that their partner is too controlling. And when they say this, they are usually pretty irritated, because they don’t like it one bit. But what does “controlling” really mean? Do they not listen to you? Do they demand things go a certain way? Do they always want to know what you’re doing at all times?
I think there are many varying degrees of controlling behavior. I imagine that if I consider my own forceful behavior at times, even I could be considered controlling. I know when I get certain about something that I want my husband to do what I want him to do. When I don’t listen to him and just push my thoughts onto him, well I guess you could call that controlling.
Often when I meet a couple for the first time I hear one or both say something like, “If he or she would just do (something goes here) then everything would be great.” I think this is so common that most people don’t even realize they are living in a relationship of dissatisfaction. That’s just the way things are for them.
When we are wishing for something to be different, we are dissatisfied with the way things are. This dissatisfaction leads to discomfort and disappointment, and that is how I meet most couples I have a chance to work with.
A friend of mine suggested there is more to the fairness issue than just understanding you are always looking for something to be even. I thought about this for a moment and realized that I agree, there is more. Here is more.
When we are looking for something to be fair, or we are disappointed because things are not even, we come from a place where we have been hurt. Our hurt helps us see right and wrong in a very visceral way. It’s everywhere. It always exists. That’s how we evaluate whether we are treated properly, we ask the question, “Is it fair?”
There is something about fairness that we all consider in our lives. We decide if something is right or wrong. We often determine if we didn’t get enough of something and if someone got more, and then we say to ourselves, “that’s not fair”.
Humans like things to be even. And we really feel this equation when we are in a relationship with our person. You might ask yourself, am I doing more than my mate? Does my partner do more than I do? Do we have an equal arrangement? Am I the recipient of more than I give?