If there’s one piece of advice I’d give for a happy relationship, it’s to become well acquainted with yourself. Learn what makes you tick. What pushes your buttons. When your behaviors are appropriate and when they’re not. With little or no self-awareness, you’re flying blind, blundering along creating messes, making your relationship and your life hard. And the kicker is…you haven’t a clue as to why it’s happening or what you can do about it. You just keep repeating old behaviors that aren’t working and don’t give you what you want–essentially doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. If this sounds familiar, you need to become more self aware.
Observe yourself. Notice your thoughts, your feelings, the behaviors you do that create discord. How do you feel and what do you do, for example, when your partner asks you (nicely, I might add) to do something reasonable…like put your dishes in the dishwasher after dinner? Do you silently get angry and pout? Do you lash out? Do you do it one time, then forget about it? In other words, do you overreact to a benign request? If so, it’s a clue that your reaction is unconsciously being driven by your past.
You probably had a controlling upbringing where unreasonable demands were placed on you, and back then, you had no choice but to do what you were told. Now when your partner asks anything of you, you are thrown back to that time and you act like that little kid who was so unfairly burdened.
If this is your pattern, what can you do? Lots of observing, lots of exploration, lots of introspection…and then, little steps at a time to make changes. Here’s a simple formula to help you get going in a positive direction:
First, simply notice what triggers you and catch it when it happens. Second, become aware of the consequences of doing the old behavior, i.e. it starts a fight, I feel awful inside, it alienates my partner and creates distance. Third, come up with an alternative behavior that feels better to you and doesn’t push your partner away. For example, you might say: “When you asked me to put away my dishes, I got so angry. I know that my upset is not about you and that you’re not being unreasonable. I just wanted to let you know what happens with me, and of course, I’ll put my dishes in the dishwasher.” Saying this instead of acting out the old negative behavior will let your partner understand you better, and thus, bring you closer.
It’s a simple formula and the more you practice, the better you will get at it. Remember too…that YOU’RE NOT BAD! You’re just reacting from old conditioning that needs to be brought out into the open so that dark shadows don’t rule your life. Take a chance and come into the present with your partner. I promise, you will both be happier if you do.
Check out my book, The Affair: From Breakdown to Breakthrough, A Therapist’s Real-life Journey, for more great tips and insights about relationships. You can read a synopsis of the book on my website, www.infidelityandaffairs.com and buy it worldwide from all Amazon websites (both print and Kindle) and Barnes and Noble