It’s always all about you. Part 1

Scenario

Jackie collapsed on the sofa after yet another major fight with her husband. They have the same fight over and over again.  Jackie wants to spend more time with her husband.  He is always busy with work and several projects he has on the go.  She invites or suggests things to do together and he almost always has a reason or excuse not to accept.  Finally, when being friendly and inviting does not work, she complains to him that he makes other people a priority over her.   He feels attacked.  He defends himself by attacking her back, accusing her of doing the same thing – making her family more important than him.  She tried to tell him she only spent so much time with her family because he is never available, but he would not listen; he continues to attack and blame her.  He gets more and more angry. He complains about her time with her family, her time with her friends, her time studying photography.  He claims he was the one who compromises and sacrifices in their relationship.   He is the one not getting his needs met and she is to blame.  At the end of these fights they go to the opposite corners of their home.  Jackie feels alone – totally disconnect from her husband – the opposite of what she wants.

Every time Jackie tries to bring up an issue with her husband, she ends up defending herself.  She tries to address something with him but he turns it around so that she is at fault.   It ends up being all about his feelings and his needs. She feels confused and discourage.  She is at a loss of what to do.

What to do.

This is a common dynamic in troubled relationships. One partner brings up an issue for discussion and the other partner makes it all about him or her.  The original issue gets lost.  It becomes a pattern in the relationship.  Often the partner who brought up the issue does not understand what or how it happened.

First you need to be aware of the dynamic that is playing out between you and your partner.  It is very difficult, but not impossible to address an issue when you don’t know what it is.

Once you recognizes the dynamic, change your part in it.  You can’t control what your partner does but you can control what you do or don’t do.

Experiment with different behaviors.

For example, without talking about it, join your partner in whatever he or she is doing, whether your partner wants you there or not.  Try distancing from your partner and see if he or she seeks you out. Try all sorts of things – humor, tricks, gift certificates etc.  Be creative.  I’m always amazed at what couples can make happen.

If none of these things bring about change that is positive then seek out professional help.  Sometimes the core issue is difficulty with intimacy. Some people have a fear of being close.  This usually stems from issues from family of origin and/or even previous relationships.  Or, there may be some other underlying issue that is fueling the pattern. In a therapist ‘s office the issue can be kept on track and the dynamic explored.

Often partners are so involved in their relationship they do not have perspective on it.  A therapist can help a couple gain a fresh perspective on what is going on between them and then new possibilities for change become available.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

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