Getting what you want in your relationship should not be a win-lose proposition. Ideally, we should want to make our partners happy. We should want to feel like a team. A bonded union. Otherwise, why be in a relationship?
But so often couples fall into divisive patterns, especially after children come along and things get harder. Suddenly one person’s freedoms get questioned and another feels that they carry too much responsibility.
“Why are you allowed to go surfing on Saturdays and I have to watch the kids? When do I get to do what I want?” The competition kicks in. The score-keeping. Partner’s feel resentful. The honeymoon or Bonding period is over. Words like ‘selfish’ are thrown around. Cold shoulders, silence and stonewalling follow.
So often couples forget to negotiate their needs and say them with soft, neutral delivery. They forget to say, “I feel…. I think this about… "They use generalisations and exaggeration phrases like ”You never... you always... you should....”
The word ‘you’ at the start of a sentence is blaming and creates conflict. Partners retreat, defend or avoid conflict. Intimacy suffers when partners withdraw emotionally. The couple are no longer bonding, but differentiating or feeling separate.
A person needs to feel that they are not the problem. Even though, their behaviour sometimes is. It is hard to have empathy though when you are constantly defending yourself. When we talk in ‘I’ phrases, the experience we are talking about is our experience of our partner’s behaviour. It is not a direct attack. It is not a character assassination. It may or may not be true or real. It may be one perspective. We may have gotten things wrong. When we start a dialogue with ‘you’ it is an attack on our partner’s character and often comes with finger waving. So much better to think… “He/ She is telling me about their experience of me. They aren’t talking ABOUT ME!”
It is easier to listen and to go into problem solving mode when one’s fight or flight response has not gone off! Yes, we want to understand. We want to give them the benefit of the doubt. We want to be loving and hopeful. If we get sensitive and take things personally our danger signal will go off and we will be flooded with emotion - often anger or a sense of injustice. We will be in the reptilian brain mode ready for a fight, instead of the frontal lobe ready to think laterally, creatively and calmly. One is mature and geared for solutions and one is immature and geared for bear wrestling.
We all have needs. Having needs does not mean betraying the partnership. We are the people that our partners were attracted to. We still have individual friends, hobbies, family, sports etc. Family life just means trying to fit it all in.
Ultimately, we have no choice but to do deals. It is not a good idea to insist that our partners change. Resentment often develops when we do not lay down our boundaries with assertiveness. If we feel like the doormat, it is because we have given too much. Taken on too many chores. We feel hard done by. Yet, no one made us. In fact, the person we should be mad at is often ourselves.
Our partners are not mind readers and we often project our own feelings or motivations onto them. Couples Counselling can teach you to negotiate, lay down your boundaries and accept that relationships are give and take. There are great skills and strategies to be learnt to create wonderful, symbiotic relationships that last. And your friends will be asking you how you do it.
Methods I use:
Text me for a 10 minute call-back on 0439888070.
Ghita’s Blog April 2023
Founder of Ghita Therapy - Ghita Andersen (B.Soc.Sci: Psych & Coun; Grad Cert FDR, Hypnosis Cert.) is a professionally trained Psychotherapist, Couples Counsellor, Hypnotherapist and a Federally Accredited Family Dispute Mediator (FDRP).