By David Joel Miller.
Hate your relationship but can’t leave?
Do you feel trapped in an unhappy situation? You know this relationship is not meeting your needs, but you’re not sure that anything else would be any better. One thing we find in marriage or relationship counseling is that people tend to repeat the same mistakes over and over. If you don’t discover what the problem is, it will keep happening.
Sometimes the problem is one partner or the other. If it’s you then you need to change. If at your partner, well, in that case, your options are limited. You can’t change someone else; only they can change themselves. What you can do is change the situation, change yourself, or learn how to accept the situation. You may decide that this situation needs to end.
Very often, however, the reason the relationship is unhappy lies in the space between two people, the way they relate to each other. There are certain things that people do, which keep the relationship an unhappy one. Therapists often see people who end one relationship, subsequently, start a new relationship, only to find they’re having the same problems in their new relationship.
Here are some things that may be happening in your current relationship which you need to learn how to handle if you are ever to have a happy relationship.
Avoiding conflict does not resolve the problem.
In some relationships, one or both partners are conflict avoidant. They don’t want to argue about things, and as a result, nothing ever changes. Conflict avoidance is an especially difficult problem when the conflict avoidant partner never tells their partner what they want.
Conflicts are part of life. A lack of conflict in a relationship does not mean it’s a perfect relationship. It’s not disagreements that damage relationships, but the way in which two people resolve those disagreements. Work on being able to express your disagreement with your partner in a way that they can hear. Work on finding win-win solutions rather than engaging in protracted disagreements over who is right and who’s in control.
What attracted you, may be pushing you apart.
Finding someone with the qualities you lack can be very attractive. Being with a person who is different from you can be exciting. But after you have been in the relationship a while things change, your needs change, and the qualities that brought you together may be the very things that are causing the problems.
That strong partner made you feel safe in the beginning but ends up being controlling. Your partner may have seemed like a lot of fun and helped you get out of your shell. But now you realize you have always been very responsible, and that fun person now looks irresponsible.
You don’t ask to have your needs met.
Don’t think that if your partner truly loved you, they would do things to make you happy. Very few people can read minds. Being deeply in love does not make you a mind reader. People who will not ask for what they want, create impediments to a good relationship.
You can’t win by beating up your teammate.
When aggressive, achievement-oriented people get together, they often end up competing with each other. When you are both hostile and want to win, you end up locked in a constant struggle for dominance and control.
When one partner assumes the one up position, there’s a high risk that the other partner will become resentful. The best solutions to partner disagreements are learning how to create win-win situations in which both people get their needs met. Compromising does not mean both people need to give up or lose something.
Playing the blame game and finger-pointing damages relationships.
Couples in unhappy relationships often begin to blame each other. When one person is criticized, their response is to criticize their partner for other issues. If you want to have a good relationship, learn to tackle one issue at a time. If you did something wrong admit it. Work on making it right. Pointing out all the things your partner has done wrong does not excuse your error, and mutual recriminations poison the relationship.
Needing to be right requires your partner to be wrong.
Insecure people need to always be right. They never want to hear that anything they have done was less than perfect. They often have lots of excuses as to why it’s not their fault. This “right fighting” can lead to endless episodes of arguments. Often there is no resolution. Many couples argue over things for which there is no correct answer. One person prefers one beverage while the other prefers a different beverage. The inability to allow your partner to have a different opinion than yours has resulted in couples locked in an eternal mortal combat.
Needing the last word keeps the argument going.
Once you’ve had your say, stop talking. Trying to always get in the last word doesn’t make you right. Keeping at it results in a relationship with only one topic, “who is right?” Make an effort to hear your partner out.
If you can’t hear what your partner is saying or feeling, there’s no communication.
Lots of couples show up for marriage counseling wanting to improve communication. What that often means is one of them wants the other to do something. Communication is not about being right or about arguing your partner into doing what you want. True communication in relationships furthers understanding. Make sure you’re listening to understand what your partner means. The missing part of communication is often a failure to understand what the partner is feeling.
If what you been doing or saying has been making your partner feel unloved or disrespected what’s needed is not to prove to them how much you love them or how correct you are. The best way to improve for relationship communication is to listen for the feelings behind the words that are being said. Once you get the feelings, the exact words are less important.
How many problems do you have in your relationship?
In distressed relationships, it is important to take a good look at the things you could do to improve your current relationship. Until you have learned good relationship skills, whether you stay or leave, any relationship you get into is likely to have the same problems.
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books