Why do we get frustrated, upset angry or even vindictive with our partners?
There are many reasons of course! But let’s examine some dynamics closer to the heart of what disconnects us in everyday interactions.
(This article will not get into childhood wounds which are a big part of what plays out in every romantic partnership on a very deep level.)
We’ve agreed to be on the team, that’s partnership, but we often have a hard time acting like it. If we’re truly on the same team, shouldn’t we be supportive and patient rather than resistant, harsh or critical?
Why do we react so much and even get vindictive towards the person we love?
As a team travelling on the same boat, if we want smooth sailing, we have to learn to navigate where we go together without triggering each other!
The aim presented for partnership here is:
How do we bring our wholehearted selves to the relationship? (How do we open vs close, engage vs disengage, enliven vs resign or put up with...?)
Too often couples resign, avoid, compromise, give up or attack and defend because there seems like no other way through. It’s easy to feel stuck, exhausted, helpless, powerless, and hopeless so you just shut down.
We need to learn not just to communicate, but how to bargain/negotiate – how to make decisions together in a way that feels good. Simply talking doesn’t work, especially talking without a purpose.
Too often we focus on the reason we’re angry and try to justify our position rather than engage with the purpose of winning together.
Specifically, we need to learn how to make agreements with each other.
Agreements create shared reality. “This is how we’re handling this situation.” If there are any recurring conflicts, agreements can be negotiated to change how you both navigate the situation together.
It’s not about me getting my way or you getting your way. It’s not me vs you. It’s, “Where are we going? What is our shared vision? What is the purpose of being in relationship in the first place?”
If we want smooth sailing, we need to:
1) Learn how to validate each other’s different and sometimes opposing perspectives
2) Create clarity on a shared aim/vision/purpose that can guide our decision-making
3) Learn how to brainstorm solutions without getting defensive
4) Co-create proposals, integrate objections and agree.
There are many instances where, even though we accept our partners, we’ll have requests of them to change their behaviour. So, how do you do that without controlling them or getting agitated in the process?
Take a simple example of doing the dishes.
I’ve agreed to do the dishes. My partner piles all of the dirty dishes in the sink after she makes a meal, but my preference is to have the dishes outside of the sink when I begin. Here is an opportunity for me to get frustrated or to make a request.
I want things to be a certain way, but they’re not...
How often does this happen?
All the time! Multiple times a day...
We begrudgingly try to “let these things go”, but we often don’t fully let them go, we build up micro-resentments over months then finally snap.
We missed the opportunities to make requests.
We assumed our partner should know better.
We were afraid to ask for what we wanted for fear of upsetting our partner.
We tried to let it go but didn’t really.
Instead of negotiating and creating agreements that could help you function better together, many couples carry on, semi-bitter trying to avoid potential conflict.
1) You stay together, but don’t feel connected. There’s tons of anger and hurt piled up over the years that keeps you from being deeply seen, known and felt. Deep down you love each other, but you’re not sure how to get through anymore and it’s vulnerable to even try to make a change.
2) You break up. You can’t stand hurting each other so much anymore so it doesn’t make sense to stay together. The same old patterns keep repeating themselves over and over again.
Learn the communication skills necessary to resolve past hurt and anger, stop metaphorically stepping on each other’s toes, #blasthroughodpatternsas a team and create agreements that allow you to collaborate and act like the two-person-psychological system that you are!