Archive for resentment

Blame or Acceptance and Understanding in a Relationship

Zen master Buddhist, Thic Nhat Hanh, writes:

When a plant does not grow well, you do not blame the plant. You look for the reasons that it is not doing well. You may need to do something differently: it may need feeding, or more water, or less sun – but you don’t blame the plant.

Yet, very often, if we have problems with our family, or with our partner, or with friends, we blame the person. Frequently, however, the blame has little positive outcome. It rarely results in the desired change in behaviour, or attitude, or belief and, more often, prevents the possibility of dialogue and discussion. At worst, a blaming culture in a relationship has a corrosive and destructive effect. We all know the feelings of frustration and resentment that arise when we feel misunderstood and unfairly blamed and we can become closed-off and angry.

The counsellors in Coupleworks often work with couples to learn the most effective ways to take care of their particular relationship so that it can ‘grow well’ and thrive. Sometimes a couple can get stuck in a culture of blame – and each partner needs to understand their own role in that dynamic and what they need to do differently. Why are they stuck with feeling that the other is not good enough or, somehow, should not be the way they are? Each needs to reflect on this anxiety and their urge to criticise and attack. How can each take responsibility for getting needs met with compassion and generosity, and what has to happen if they are both to make the choice to ‘tend’ and not diminish?

Of course we can be upset and distressed when our idea of what reality should be confronts a different reality understood by our partner. But a conflict in a relationship is a couple problem that needs both parties collaborating to resolve. Alienating one another prevents a shared creative thinking.

If a relationship is to flourish and deepen it needs to feel safe – and acceptance and understanding is fundamental. Acceptance does not mean approval, consent, permission, agreement, aiding, abetting or even liking what is. But it does require each partner seeing the other and accepting ‘That’s the way it is’ and ‘That’s the way they see it’.

As a therapist I am alert to when a couple begins to talk in absolutes: ‘You always…’, ‘You never…’ and when perceptions are filtered through ‘should’s, must’s, and ought’s. An insistence on wrong-doing, of being ‘right’ or wrong’, then requires a respectful exploration of value-systems, perceptions, and beliefs.

A challenge to our expectations can make us anxious and rigid and there is a danger that love can then become conditional: ‘I’ll love you if you are different’. The need to ‘walk a mile in your shoes’ to find understanding then becomes more critical than ever.

Kathy Rees

Summer Holidays and How to Survive Them

It’s no coincident that couple therapists get a wave of phone calls before and after the summer holiday season. Anxiety levels increase and tempers flare just planning the holiday. We often find ourselves overloaded with work and commitments, leaving us exhausted before we even step on to the plane or into our cars. So how can we prepare to turn our holiday expectations into realistic ones, which will leave us feeling relaxed and enriched.

We spend the winter thinking about our summer holiday: where shall we go, where shall we stay, what will we do? We dream of how relaxing it will be and how much fun we are going to have. Yet, the reality can be very different. Spending time with our other half every minute of every day is often challenging and can sometimes be more than disappointing.

Groundwork:
Deciding with your partner where to go starts with being clear about the kind of holiday you want. If you want a city holiday and your partner wants a beach holiday, for instance, there is no point in giving in, it will only cause resentment. Don’t be a martyr. Negotiate and compromise and see your partner’s point of view, this will give you both the opportunity to get at least some of the holiday you’re looking for.

Slow down:
Take care to slow down before leaving. Have early nights, that proposal can wait until morning. Eat well and exercise regularly to keep balanced. Don’t over commit with friends or take on extra work just before your trip. It will only stress you out.

Details:
Spontaneity is not helpful when travelling. The better prepared you are the more seamless and less anxious your experience will be. Do your research: Book reasonable times to depart and arrive at your destination so you are relaxed not exhausted. Don’t take that 5.45am flight to Istanbul or arrive bang in the middle of a New York rush hour. Doing packing at the last minute while searching for misplaced travel documents are also not recommended. Being well organized helps to lower stress levels and allows us to start our holiday on an even keel.

Your Trip:
Remember, this is an opportunity to let go and spend time with each other without the pressures of work and daily commitments. It’s also a time when things that need to be addressed and have been ignored tend to come out between couple. Agree to limit your discussion to issues that aren’t historically explosive and only when you haven’t been drinking.
Turn off your phone and IPad when together and agree to be present with one another and listen to your partner. This is a great opportunity to remember why you fell in love with them in the first place.

Hopefully, now you won’t come home from your holiday needing another one to recover from it! Have a wonderful trip.

Shirlee Kay

Expectations

Couples naturally come into relationships with predetermined expectations, as well as their own unconscious understanding of how a couple ‘should be’.  This is usually based on what they experienced growing up with their own parents.

If we grew up with parents who did everything together: be it the shopping, household cleaning or making financial decisions, it would make sense that we might expect the same from our relationship.

Difficulties arise when couples are unable to accept that their partner may have different expectations from their own and when they are unable to accept these differences.

Ways of Working with Different Expectations:

1. Ask yourself, what are your expectations from the relationship and from your partner.  Be specific and clear.

2. Enquire where this belief came from, and question whether it is still important in your present relationship or if it’s an old belief system or pattern from the past.

3. Be curious and open about your partner’s expectations and try to accept that they may not be the same as yours.

4. Check in with your body (is your body tensing up?) to see if these differences cause you discomfort?  If so, notice the feelings and accept them.  When we accept our own feelings we can more easily accept our partners.

5. Talk about issues as and when they come up so resentment doesn’t build up.

6. Trust that your partner is NOT trying to injure you, just reacting from his or her own experience.  Trust you are both doing your best and it takes time.   Keep with it.

Shirlee Kay