My mother was known to say “I love you deeply but right now I don’t like you very much.” Think about it… The hardest relationships to maintain and carry on day to day are the ones with those individuals that we see most often, spend the most time with; our significant others and family members – for a few reasons:
- We spend the most time with them
- We feel safest and are most often vulnerable with them
- We have a tendency to have more expectations with them
- We usually can’t just ‘take a break’ the way we do with friends
- Ending the relationship is a BIG deal
Most of us don’t enjoy conflict and many of us develop the habit of not addressing the twinges of feelings that come along from time to time when we:
- Don’t feel important
- Don’t feel safe
- Don’t feel loved
- We don’t feel respected
Consequently, they add up and end up manifesting in little complaints:
You never spend any time with me!
You’re going out again?
You never listen or pay attention to me!
You work all the time.
I can’t trust you to do what you say.
You never help me.
You don’t care about anything.
We focus on the ‘nit-picky’ items that are present and use sarcasm:
Do you have to leave your dishes all over the place?
You are late for dinner.
Are you deaf?
Since I have to do everything myself…
If you ever bothered to…
You’re constantly interrupting me.
Do I have to do everything myself?
Can’t you do anything right?
These sentences are the result of the ‘twinges’ of feelings and superficially represent the deeper feelings that are listed first (feelings of safety, importance, love).
In my counseling practice I will often tell clients who come in talking about tit-for-tat’s or present each individual complaint that they are merely laying out all the SYMPTOMS of a RASH but that the rash is indicative of something deeper…
We could spend tons of time (and your money) focusing on why he said this or why she did that, minute by minute, and I could pick apart each sarcastic word or passive-aggressive phrase but I believe that is akin to putting a salve on a rash that comes back again and again. Eventually you have to diagnose the INFECTION that is causing the rash in order to prevent the rash from returning.
When we FEEL loved, safe, respected and important – we generally do NOT pick on the minutia that is injected into our day to day lives. When we feel loved and important, we are understanding about that late phone call that prevented him getting home in time for dinner. When we feel secure we don’t worry about where he is every moment nor do we open ourselves to jealousy because he wants to golf every Saturday morning. When we feel respected, we don’t internalize sarcasm.
It is VITAL that instead of bringing up all the ‘rash’ symptoms that we are tempted to pick on – we need to learn how to go straight into the infection and get direct to the point:
“I don’t feel important when you are late for dinner – I miss you and want you to be eager to come home”
“I feel unimportant when it seems like you aren’t listening to me”.
“When you play golf every Saturday it feels like you’d rather be there than here with me and I feel unloved”.
“When you use sarcasm, I feel disrespected.”
In the above examples you are clearly stating how YOU FEEL – you are not accusing and you are much less likely to receive a defensive response.
It’s a great place to start!!