Hi, it’s me…your relationship. Remember me? We use to have so much in common and we use to be so happy. What happened? You are often sad and when you are angry…Wow! I remember at the beginning, we had such plans and felt so loved and blessed. We would stay up talking and loose all sense of time. We hugged, we danced, we listened, we cuddled, we kissed and we made love. We use to be able to settle our differences but now we keep a score of hurts. Somewhere you made a detour and now your feel rejected, abandoned, unloved, misunderstood and unheard. How did you get there? I tried so often to talk to you but you were so angry and wouldn’t or maybe couldn’t hear me. I feel so unheard and minimized.
You stopped listening to me and thought you could do it all on your own and now all you have is shattered dreams and feelings. I know if you can’t listen to me you won’t be able to listen to your partner. On your own, you are so angry and judgmental and mostly, you are alone. Can we talk now? Before this goes too far. My arch enemy is resentment and that can lead to a horrible ending called divorce. It is a simple path to get there. It begins with not expressing your needs and when you do, you sound so angry and parental that your partner can only hear the sound of your anger and not your needs. Then you begin to think it is pointless to talk because now both of you feel resentful and unheard, This leads to more anger and more silence and then you stop reaching…stop touching, now you are really in trouble because on your own, you have no idea what to do. You know I am here for you and your partner.
So, let me begin by reminding that I, “relationship,” are what helps hold you two together. Without me you are on your own with either all feelings and no wisdom or all smart with no feelings. I am the gas tank that helps you, especially when things are tough, but when you try to do it on your own you drain me, and then we are all empty. I know you experienced some times as a child where you felt unheard, unloved and betrayed and although that was a long time ago, those hurts still haunt you. What you didn’t realize is they were never healed because they were never resolved. Then you found your partner and you thought, finally you have found someone who loved you for who you were and they were loyal and committed and would never betray you or refuse to listen to you. Essentially you thought that they would forever be able to supply your needs. Another thing you didn’t know was that your partner in their childhood were also wounded. Whenever your partner said or did something even if it was slight, those wounds got reactivated and you sounded like you were angry but in reality, you were just frightened. When you lashed out or withdrew that reactivated their wounds and you two were at war.
I bring to you and your partner a tool box of skills. They are so easy to use when things are great but their real strength is they are there when things are not so great. My most important skill is “cooperation.” I know, you thought “love” was the most important thing. Love isn’t a “thing”, it is a state and you have to work constantly at maintaining that state and that begins with cooperation. The last thing I know couples want to do when they feel angry (frightened or panicked), is cooperate. So, what do you think you want when you are feeling that way? Yep! You want cooperation and that comes with skills like listening and understanding without trying to fix or justify. You see it isn’t love in that moment that will help, it is your partner cooperating by listening and understanding and it is you cooperating by expressing your needs with respect. If you speak with criticism or use words like “always,” and “never,” your partner is going to feel defensive and it will be hard for them to cooperate. When there is cooperation, I promise there will be love which is you feeling heard and valued. When that happens not only the current wounds, but also the past wounds begin to heal. In that cooperation, your partner encounters another of my skills, namely “safe.” Then they will also feel loved because they feel respected and not attacked. I am never about attack!
Listening is hard when your partner is criticizing. Let me share some wisdom for that moment, when they are doing that. Just like when they are merely voicing a complaint, they are only trying to tell you what it’s like to be them and what they need to feel safe, heard and valued. Did you know that it is your job to teach your partner how to treat you? I can help you soften your expression of needs and to articulate them in such a way that it will better garner cooperation. You see as “relationship,” I can help you know that you are valuable and loved. I am sorry to tell you, your partner from time to time may struggle to be able to supply all your needs in a moment. They too might be struggling to know they are loved and valued. When we find ourselves in that place, we tend to move into sarcasm which is only another flavor of resentment.
Finally, the next time your feeling frightened, remember what I stand for. Remember I am here for you and your partner. You can’t do it alone without remembering what I stand for. You will lose your way. You or your partner are not perfect so remember, learn to love the one you’re with and not the one you deserve. That will garner respect, commitment, loyalty and respect. And when you have resolved this through cooperation, I promise you I will give you the best gift of all, feeling and knowing you are loved and valued.