Relationship Hell. We’ve all been there; you’re doing the same things with the same person that once made you so happy but now cloud 9 has inexplicably morphed into planet misery. Why does it happen? How can you avoid it and how the heck do you get out of it once you’re in it?
The number one cause of a good date gone bad, is our dangerous tendency to become focused or even obsessed with the imaginary ideal of a relationship that we create in our minds. We can devote so much energy towards this fantasy that it takes on a life of its own.
If we get really carried away, longing for the relationship we would like to be having mutates into resentment about the one we are actually in. We start to project blame on the other person, righteously indignant that they are somehow depriving us of the relationship we “ought” to be having. We fall into the trap of constantly measuring our experience against the standards of this imaginary relationship and making ourselves miserable when it falls short.
We start noticing how much (fill in the blank) we are getting, weighing it up against how things are in the imaginary relationship. Then we start to question whether the person deserves what we’ve been giving- and begin to hold back. The other person reacts to the withdrawal and so the vicious cycle begins- “you’re not meeting my needs, so I’m not going to meet yours”.
Dead-lock. So what can you do?
First of all, when you’re in the thick of things, try to resist the urge to react impulsively, no matter how many buttons are being pushed. Start agreeing to use time outs with each other or at a minimum, slow things down with a couple of deep breaths. Acknowledging – even to yourself- the deeper feelings below the anger – which is usually some kind of fear, can really help to de-escalate.
Next, here is a list of 6 interventions to try in the case of a relationship emergency.
That relationship you think you ought to be having isn’t real. Resist the urge to compare and despair. Ask yourself if you didn’t have an idea that things should be different, how would it change how you feel right now?
How much of the “problem” is to do with either things that happened in the past or your fears about what might happen in the future? See that living, breathing person in front of you? The one that is actually here, right now? Give them some attention. Not just some in fact, give them one hundred percent of your undivided attention. Really look at them – with eye contact!
With yourself and with your beloved. Radical Honesty is the key. Give up the denial and stop trying to manipulate the situation. The truth will set you free – but please remember to tell it kindly.
Tell them that you want to really listen and then shut up and do it. Bite your tongue if necessary. No interrupting. Give them the gift of being willing to hear whatever they want to say without repercussions. No responding, defending or justifying allowed.
All the time. Especially when you are mad. That’s the time to make the extra effort. It’s easy to be loving when it’s easy. The tough get loving when the loving gets tough. Buy flowers when you are furious. Get out the lingerie when you least feel like wearing it. Offer a foot rub when you want to run away. You’ll be amazed at the results.
Instead trying desperately to avoid the pain you think is coming, decide to face it and stay open in spite of it. Stop defending yourself, stop trying to get your point across and most importantly, stop trying to be right.
Each of these interventions can be very powerful by themself. Start to combine them and you have quite an impressive tool-kit to bring to the table. Maybe even more importantly, is that regardless of the outcome, practicing these techniques will help you feel better and feel better about yourself during the process.
Share this list with your beloved. Since what you are doing isn’t working anyway, why not suggest something different? Above all, always remember that the only person actually under your control is you.
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