couples_in_conflictSadly, many couples who start out full of love for each other become couples lost in battle for their individual identities and entrenched in hateful, confused and competitive conflict over time.  They meet and see in each other ideals that sparked joy and hope for a life of love and companionship….how does it go so wrong?

Most people get attracted to someone because they see in that person qualities they would like to have.  Or they see the hope of healing their childhood wounds in the safety of a relationship with them.  And, once in a relationship, they try to change them to be more like themselves….or like those they have been trying to escape and heal from.

It doesn’t make sense.  If you admire someone and want to be more like them, why would you want to change them and make them more like you?  Why would anyone want to recreate their past bad relationships and continue their own suffering?

In my work with couples I see this all the time.  And as they reveal to me the history of their courtship and relationships, it is sad to see the path they have chosen that has led them to so much pain and torment.  So many of the patterns and traumas could have been avoided if only…….

Know Thyself and Where Thy Behavior Comes From…

Our childhood experiences mold us.  We learn to see ourselves and how we fit in the world from our early childhood experiences.  Even as adults we often evaluate what goes on around us with a child’s eye view.  Our emotions are triggered by how we’ve been treated in the past and it’s easy to misread and misinterpret others while believing our perceptions are Absolute Facts.

If we don’t examine our past and how it has molded us we are doomed to repeat it.  We will view and evaluate everyone and everything with the same filter.  Our partners and closest friends and children and co-workers don’t stand a chance.  We will miss out on really getting to know who they are.

Look At Others With Open and Honest Eyes…

When people paired up they often didn’t look, honestly, at each other. Love is blind. Is it? We always want to be the best person we want to be in a new relationship and we also want the Other to be the best person we have been hoping for. How much of what we see is real? How much is the Other being the best person they want to be? How much is it our love blindness fantasizing the Other into something they never professed to be?

Accept Who The Other Wants To Be

Why do we think, after only knowing someone a few weeks or months, that we know them better than they know themselves? How do we come to believe that we have the right to decide what is best for them and what they want and then try to make them change back?

Set Healthy Boundaries For Ourselves and Keep Them

If we want to be treated with respect, love, kindness and generosity then why would we stick around with someone who doesn’t treat us that way? How many bad endings could you have avoided if you had walked the first time you were treated badly? If we only allowed into our Inner Circle people who treat us with kindness, generosity and respect could we have saved ourselves a lot of grief and heartache? You bet!

Always Set Communication As A Top Priority

And for long term relationships these processes need to never stop! You don’t have to stop respecting your self or the other person just because you got married, do you? People continue to grow and change over time and sometimes they don’t grow together, in the same direction or at the same time. Couples can get kind of lazy and expect the other to stay the same or go the direction they want to go in. They stop talking about who they are and what they want. They start talking in short hand, or not at all. They start believing in mind-reading, believing either that they can or the other should.

* work becomes a priority
* kids become a priority
* family becomes a priority
* money becomes a priority

Relationships get put on the back burner
Emotional and sexual intimacy get put on the back burner

In order to keep a relationship vital and relevant we have to find ways to talk through the bad times and work through the uncomfortable topics. How can you get on the same team and share the goals and dreams again?

Nothing is more important in growing a relationship over time.

Don’t Let Resentments Replace Relationships

When you do something for someone else and don’t feel appreciated, or their behavior doesn’t change the way you’d like it to or they don’t reciprocate the way you think they should, hurt feelings turn to anger and resentment.

Couples take on responsibilities to make a family/household run smoothly. Sometimes they feel like they have choices, other times they feel they have no other option. Some things get done well and are taken for granted, other things are done badly leaving them feeling inadequate and vulnerable. Husbands take on the responsibility of paying the bills but don’t pay attention to detail and there are late fees and credit collectors and dings on credit scores so the wife takes over and starts building a story about how inadequate and irresponsible and unloving he is. Wives focus on raising the kids (because he obviously doesn’t care enough to do it) and husbands feel shut out and unimportant (we all know women only marry men for money and children and then they don’t like sex anymore) and he starts making up a story about how cold and unemotional she is.

What would happen if everyone only did what they wanted to do and could do without feeling resentful? One of my rules of thumb is to not agree to things unless I am willing to accept whatever outcome happens without blaming someone else. If I think I might feel used or burdened or unappreciated, it is my responsibility to say no, not theirs. It is not someone elses fault if I can’t say no.

Lose Your Losing Strategies

Needing To Be Right
Trying To Control The Other Person
Unbridled Self-Expression

(The New Rules of Marriage by Terry Real)

Get Help To Get Back To Remembering Love

Often times, by the time we’ve realized we have dug ourselves a hole, we can’t dig ourselves out without help from others. Some relationship counseling can help you and your partner find love again and tweak the relationship enough that you can remember why you got together in the first place. If you find that you can’t get past fighting and taking pot shots at each other, it’s best to get someone who can tell you honestly what you need to do to rebuild and revitalize the trust and love you once had in your relationship and give you some ideas of how to reconnect and feel safe with each other.

Photo by William Day on Reshot

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