Whenever you are having relationship difficulties, it’s always their fault, isn’t it? We say to ourselves, if only they could be more loving, more affectionate, more interested. We tell all our friends how bad they are treating us – everyone agrees and says to kick them to the curb.
But, did you tell your friends about the things you said and did in the heat of the moment? Have you reflected on the possibility that it might be you? That just maybe you are the problem?
Hmm, that’s a bit challenging and confronting isn’t it? Just maybe you were the problem all along. How can someone tell you that you are the one ruining the relationship, if you are committed to your view of yourself as blameless and perfect?
You’re perceiving everything they do as the cause of the problems and you feel completely justified in your position. No effort to self-reflect; no willingness to consider that you may have the wrong end of the stick. You might spend a lot of time explaining how right you are and how justified you are in reacting as you do. They may try to respond a few times in the beginning – but it doesn’t take long for them to learn to keep quiet and nod. Then they are in trouble for not communicating.
I have listened to clients try to explain to their partner how problematic their behaviour is and they don’t get the first sentence out before they get cut off, disagreed with and not given a chance.
How is someone supposed to tell us we are destroying the relationship if we are not prepared to listen? I have seen couples who are clearly in love, but they’re in pain. Neither party is willing to consider that their behaviour may be at the root of the problem.
Just imagine a world where we could truly walk a mile in our partner’s shoes and try seeing things from their perspective. Create an environment where they feel safe to tell us how they feel and what we are doing that is not loving and constructive to the relationship. As long as we try to be open and honest about our feelings and experiences in a gentle and respectful way, we’ll have a lot less miscommunication and conflict. We have to be willing to listen to the other person’s opinions and consider that they might be right. That maybe we are doing or saying the wrong things.
So what do we need to do to stop this train wreck? Maybe we all need to start with ourselves and question what we are doing to cause conflict and ways we can avoid this. Take some time to reflect on whether you would like to be in a relationship with yourself (and your behaviour). If you are really brave, you could ask people around you to give you feedback on how you come across and listen without getting upset, but rather see this feedback as things you can do to improve yourself and your relationships.
Suzanne Loubris is a relationships counsellor and organisational psychologist. You’ll find her at Leah Dique & Associates in Nambour, or visit behaviourthatworks.com