How to Deal with an Irritating Girlfriend, Boyfriend, or Spouse

How to Deal with an Irritating Girlfriend, Boyfriend, Husband, or Wife

Most of us can relate to feeling some sort of irritation with our mate. I know we try and love them, but we all know we don’t love everything they do. In fact we might even become annoyed or irritated by some of their behaviors.

Some of us even get so frustrated when this happens that we can’t deal with those behaviors anymore so we leave the relationship and look for another partner, less annoying and irritating. But this article is about you staying in the relationship you are in and learning how to deal with your discomfort.

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How to Handle Conflict for a Happy, Healthy Marriage

How to Handle Conflict in Relationships

Learning how to handle conflict in a relationship is tough, because it forces us to challenge our instincts.

When people get their feelings hurt, most of us don’t want to go near the person who hurt them. This holds true in families, with co-workers and in relationships. It’s just easier to back away when something painful happens. It’s just the way many humans are wired.

As a couples specialist I know that even with the person we love, for some of us it’s instinctive to pull away when things get messy. I work with people who love each other who just want to know what to do when they fight. They usually wonder if they could do the fighting part better so they don’t have to stay wounded and apart for so long.

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When Your Partner is Your Enemy

By the time couples come in to see me for couples counseling it’s a good bet they have tried everything they know to feel better in the relationship. If a couple comes in while both still like each other and both want to make the partnership work the outcome can be terrific.
But if each person has been holding on to anger at the other person for a good amount of time and finding fault with everything their partner does, then mending the damage becomes an entirely different and more difficult endeavor.
Sometimes when a couple has been at war with each other for a long time they don’t see the good in the other person anymore. They see their mate as the evil one who does things intentionally to hurt them. They might even feel harmed by their mate. So they might end up making their partner, husband, wife, the person they believed would grow old with, into something they never thought they would… they make them their ENEMY.
I bet if you could go back in time with any couple who stays at war with their mate and see them early on in their relationship as a loving couple, and if you asked them then if they thought they would be enemies they would probably tell you, you are crazy to even think they could possibly hate their beloved. It would be unthinkable to them. No one sets out to dislike the one they love.
And if there is any hope for a recommitment of sorts between them, that’s where I have to help them look, back to the start of the relationship when they believed in their partnership. The couple has to find some kernel of past happiness to hold on to, in order to be able to rekindle something that could bring them closer.
By the time a couple gets caught up in the cycle of blaming each other, it’s likely they have spent a lot of time wishing they could be close and feel loved by their partner. When couples end up blaming their partner for what is wrong in the relationship they have already spent a long time trying to change their mate so they can feel better; feel more love, feel close to them again. They have tried everything they know and are probably exhausted and lonely. Unfortunately, I believe that a working relationship must have aware participants who can take responsibility for how they treat their partner.
No one gets a pass to be mean to their beloved. I don’t care what your partner has done. When we retaliate on our mate we are no better than two five-year-olds battling it out on a schoolyard. This is no-win behavior that makes us mad at our mate and it pushes us toward demonizing them and hating them for how we feel…unloved.
People who bicker and argue may be good at fighting with each other. They may even think that people need to have battling skills to be in a successful relationship. Maybe they saw their parents fight like this. Maybe they learned how to raise their voice out of frustration. What ever the reason let me be clear on this point too. As a Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in helping couples I know that fighting does not belong in a healthy relationship. Fighting causes harm and bad feelings.
Disagreements are a natural part of life though. People get their feelings hurt. That’s normal. What is helpful is to learn the skills to tell your partner when you are upset. Both people should also have some skills at saying “I’m sorry.” This is part of resolving difficulties, and these are some of the skills you can learn in counseling. Healthy couples don’t stuff their feelings either, they express them, only they don’t slam or blame their partner in the process.
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When Couples Learn to Communicate

As a couples specialist I am sometimes humbled by the changes I see people make to improve their relationships.  It’s not that I don’t believe it can happen; it’s just that more often than not couples stay locked in their differences and expect the other person in the relationship to make the changes.

I spend a lot of time listening to how wounded people are because of what the other person has done to them.  I know it’s important for people to be heard because often they have exhausted themselves trying to tell their partner what is wrong and they just can’t get understanding.  I do know that listening to each person tell me about their perceived pain caused by the other has value, at least someone is listening.

But sometimes couples, or individuals in a relationship, can stay so wounded they see their mate as the one who causes their suffering.  They are so hurt from past injuries that they can not see anything but the harm caused to them.

When one or both people in the relationship stay bound up in their pain there is little I can do but listen.  I can not help someone get awareness on how they treat their partner if they are still living in the mistreatment they believe they have suffered.  Sometimes they are just so hurt they just see their mate as a monster.

It doesn’t matter how I encourage the couple to look at the possibilities of living happily with their chosen partner.  It does little good to talk about the ingredients that make up a good relationship.  If one or both people are suffering from unresolved wounds the couple can not move into a more neutral space.  And yet sometimes, that’s exactly what happens.

Twice in the last two weeks, two couples I had been working with, that had deep difficulties and lots of pain, moved the relationship to the next level.  I could sense it the moment they walked into the room.  There was a decrease in stress and worry and sadness.  I felt something else; a calm, an ease, tenderness.

So what happened?  In both cases one or both changed how they treated the other. In one of the couples one of the partners was mad about past hurts and kept accusing the partner of repeating the behavior.  Then in an instant after a disagreement this partner got some awareness about how they displayed harshness toward the other.  They immediately called the partner and apologized, and that was a first.  Both felt something new; a bit of closeness that they had been craving for years.

The other couple described an incident that they navigated without blowing up at each other.  In the past this issue would have ended with arguing and swearing and disconnection.  This time they walked delicately through the rough parts and stayed away from blaming the other.  Both worried about hurting the others’ feelings.  And that was a first for this couple too.

In both cases I was amazed and humbled by the beautiful changes I was able to witness.  Are all their problems solved? Of course not.  But what they discovered together is a new way of feeling, and those feelings felt good.  The human spirit wants to feel good.  Sometimes we just have to try something new to create something better.  Trust that you can find your way.  I know I do.

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Always Mad at Your Mate

One tip off that you are perpetually mad at your partner is how you feel when you are about to see them.  Does the thought of being with him or her excite you?  If so, this is a sign that you are in a healthy relationship.  But if the idea of spending time with your mate drives you up a wall, or even makes you tense up, you may want to take a closer look at your partnership.

If you get stressed out while driving home, or if you get stressed out when your loved one is about to return home, you may find yourself living in various stages of distress. This distress can cause chronic stress and anguish.  Maybe you tense up, trying to gage what kind of mood your mate is in.  Maybe you can’t relax until you hear them greet you so you’ll know how to react.  These states cause anxiety, and that condition is hard on any body.

If you live like you walk on egg shells, maybe it’s time to examine your partnership.  Most relationships start off in a good state, as if being there is the best place in the world.  People can’t wait to see the other because they feel so good being around each other. It’s the best time in a relationship; everything is right with the world and the couple is happy.

So what happened to the happy couple? Now they hunker down in their respective positions, waiting to witness and react to the oncoming daily drama.  This is a situation many couples find themselves immersed in.  No one feels good when locked in this routine.   When the situation gets bad enough, some couples seek professional help.

As a counselor I work with many couples in this predicament.  They tell me their stories about how terrible the other person has been.  Both feel empty and wronged by their partner.  Sometimes there’s bitterness, sometimes resentment, in each case there’s loss; loss of what was, that perfect relationship where you both felt terrific.

Couples feel terrible in this state.  As a therapist I am grateful for anything that would bring a couple in for counseling.  I know that what ever feels like a break, is really an opportunity in disguise.  A rupture in a relationship often leaves people feeling vulnerable and at risk.  I see it as fertile ground for growing in new ways with each other.  For me, it’s all about what comes after, helping the couple understand what needs healing and repairing.  That’s when couples learn new bonding skills; how to listen, and how to ask for what each person needs from the other.  Couples learn how to feel connected again.  It’s a way back, a way back to what was good in the first place, a way to remember without all the heartache, another chance to get it right.

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Feeling Small

Feeling small.  It’s a condition everyone experiences now and then.  It can occur out of nowhere.  Maybe you are in a conversation and someone talks about something you don’t know anything about.  You might feel small.  Or what about times when someone forgets to include you in something you wanted to be a part of.  You might feel small here too.  Feeling small, it happens.  It happens to all of us.

I think what we’re really feeling though is disconnected from others, disconnected from someone, something or an event.  I think it’s a feeling we get when we are alone and we don’t want to be.  I also think it’s very, very common.  We all feel this “small” feeling at times.

So what do you do about it?  The first thing to do is recognize that it happens and then discover what happens to you.  Get familiar with the feelings inside yourself and start to put words around it.  Maybe it feels like isolation, maybe it feels lonely, perhaps it is sadness, and whatever it is, begin to label it.  What you will be doing is learning about yourself, and your inner world.  These are essential steps to describing what is going on inside yourself.

So why is it important to understand and label what’s happening inside?  First it helps us identify what’s happening with us, so we just don’t feel so terrible.  Second, when we understand what’s going on inside us we can explain it to others. 

So why would you want to describe feelings of loneliness and sadness to anyone, because all these feelings get evoked because you are alone.  You feel disconnected from other people.  If you talk about the feelings, no matter what they are, you will be connecting, which is really what the soul is missing.

I know it’s hard to let people know when you feel these feelings.  These are the kinds of feelings most of us were taught to keep hidden from others.  Many of us were taught to just show happy feelings and hide the hard ones; discomfort, anger, frustration, fear, worry, sadness, guilt, shame.  Few people are taught that these feelings are O.K. to reveal.  Few people feel comfortable saying things like, “I feel angry at you right now,” or “I am full of sadness,” and “I feel guilty about that.”  These are not things that come naturally, but when we can reveal them to others we get rid of the “small” feeling.

When we know what’s happening inside us, when we can identify our feelings, we can then learn how to express them to others.  Usually when we are at this stage we are not yelling, we are calmly explaining what is going on with us.  When others hear what’s happening inside us almost every time they will want to come closer.  A person’s natural instinct is to move toward another when they are describing something vulnerable.  That is what makes us human, our ability to move toward and help others.

So when you experience those times where you just feel left out or “small”, try and remember to turn toward another.  It will lead you toward the connectedness we all crave.

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Research shows it’s not the fight that hurts the relationship…It’s how you fight that determines lasting effects

According to The New York Times Magazine, April 18, 2010, in an article that ponders the question, “Is marriage good for your health?” surprising studies show that people who fight are not in danger.  The research shows it’s not the fight that determines whether the marriage is good for you and your partner. It doesn’t matter how difficult the argument or how angry the fight, what matters is whether the people fighting stay connected.  That’s right, you have to tell you partner right in the middle of a fight that you still love them.  You have to find a way to grab their hand or call him or her a pet name, and you have to do this right in the middle of the argument or fight.

If you can do this you will have a happy heart and not suffer from stress.  When we argue without connection to our partner we put stress on our hearts and other parts of our body.  We get all keyed up and mad, sometimes we even get hateful.  The key, according to research, is to find a way to make a connection with the person we are fighting with, during the argument. 

Usually couples will have it out with each other and then they’ll have to wait until all the energy inside them dies down so they can talk to each other again, talk about what happened and start some sort of repair process to reconnect.  Research shows  us that if you can find a way to get out of the anger for just a second and make an overture to your partner, a small gesture or a couple of loving words are all that’s needed, you will keep yourself from getting into that mad zone that takes so long to come back from.

Going there, the mad place, and staying there, is one of the most harmful things you can do to your body.  Your body is now dealing with enormous amounts of energy.  It’s all stored up inside each of you and it has to go somewhere.  Maybe some of it get’s released through loud words said to each other, but chances are if you are yelling at the other person you are pretty amped up and those feelings are going to take some time to dissipate.  It’s this period that has the most negative impact on your body; elevated stress hormones, elevated risk of diabetes, elevated risk of heart disease, immune system weakens, increased risk of depression, nasty stuff to keep inside yourself.

Why not think of this now, before the next blow up. Talk with your partner, spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend and discuss the damage you each are doing to yourselves when you get in prolonged arguments.  Gain an understanding of the toxicity that fighting without connecting can produce.

Maybe you can come up with your special way of connecting before the argument begins.  Why not create a safe word or a funny phrase, a physical gesture or make a silly face.  Anything will work, as long as it brings the two of you close.  The idea isn’t to end the argument or fight.  The technique is designed to give the two of you a place away from the war zone.  It doesn’t even have to last a long time.  It just has to last a moment.  If you can do this the research says you will be served by your relationship, instead of it feeling like a weight.

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