Couples trying to work out problems often feel stuck. They get derailed by the pain sitting between them, and that pain just doesn’t seem to go away. It’s not they don’t want to get closer; the pain stymies them. If one or both carry around deep pain, how can the couple get around it and get together?
Getting into disagreements with our mate is not only part of being in a relationship; it’s also a part of life. Staying mad at your partner over unresolved issues is also pretty common, and it takes a toll on everyone. Do you stay mad at your partner?
If you are holding a grudge against him or her you are not alone. As a couples counselor I see couples in all stages of the relationship. Sometimes they come in and they are really mad at the other person. Sometimes it’s one person who does the yelling or scolding while the other just smolders and steams.
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!
Even long-time couples can wind up in oppressive-feeling situations. Both people seek relief from their partner as they grow frustrated. Exhaustion and feeling drained traps them in a system of frustration.
Some couples tough out challenging situations, hoping they’ll improve on their own. Sometimes they do. They often don’t. When that happens people often go from overwhelmed and exhausted to angry and resentful.
The relationship might even feel doomed once couples reach this stage. It feels so broken they have to break up. However, even “broken” relationships are often salvageable.
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.
Couples looking for ways to improve their relationships often come to counseling. They often bring me their latest fight or argument as evidence of their difficulty. I listen to people’s stories of what followed arguments. I sense the hurt feelings and the sadness that accompanies these fights. Sometimes there are tears. Almost all the time there is anguish and disappointment.
It’s hard to think that these feelings would be appropriate considering the circumstances, but they are. It’s hard to talk about what doesn’t work. It’s hard to bring up the stuff that makes both people feel bad. But without a roadmap I can’t see what needs repair. I have to get a three dimensional view of a couple’s communication. Often, it’s not what is being said that reveals the truth.
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.