Are you and your partner struggling… again? Can you even remember what the fight was about this time? How can it be so hard to get the relationship back on track? Getting back on track isn’t that hard. You can pick up any couples book or video and the steps are basic:
1. Remember why you first fell in love
2. Share your feelings about the relationship honestly
3. Tell your partner what you need
4. Listen to your partner’s response
5. Both agree to respond differently in the future
Even though we know what to do, most couples struggle with how. The problem is that our pride gets in the way. Pride affects communication and connection. It affects our ability to be vulnerable which results in lack of trust.
Pride can be a positive or negative force in our lives and our relationships. In the positive form it comes from feeling worthwhile and accomplished. The negative form of pride is when we act worthwhile and accomplished to hide our own internal fears and shortcomings. Pride from shame can result in a partner acting superior, looking for the flaws in others, or criticizing others as a defense. Pride is selfish and self-focused. Symptoms of pride are becoming stubborn, argumentative or defensive. Unfortunately, it is easier to spot pride in others than in ourselves.
In a relationship, our partner might ask for more connection or time together. On the surface it sounds like a simple request. The problem is that we may not feel worthy of that time. Deep down we may believe that spending that time with our partner will result in deep analysis of shortcomings, even though we are the one who sees those shortcomings. Instead of finding the time for the love that can heal us, we’ve got excuse after excuse to avoid the relationship mirror.
Underneath this faulty facade is a system of basing our own worth and value on what others think about us. Success is found when we understand that we each have fears around our own value and worth. Instead of pushing the people closest to us away - for fear that they will see the vulnerable us and criticize or flee - we need to take a step closer. By showing vulnerability and humility it invites our partner toward us. We become approachable as we become human. Affirming our dignity and allowing the same for others, we are able to honor ourselves and our partner.
Here are some tips:
Let go of assumptions. Question whether your assumptions are even valid. Thoughts such as “does my partner really love me?” or “do they even want to spend time with me?” may be based on our own faulty assumptions.
Stay open minded as you listen. Avoid interrupting out of pride or defensiveness. Listening is the opposite of pride as you set yourself aside in order to learn.
Ask yourself: “will this attitude help my relationship?” If not then work on yourself.
Acknowledge your own flaws and limitations. Look at yourself not as the flawed person who must be defended but as the flawed person who must learn and grow. It is a more objective and realistic point of view.
Be patient. Take small steps.
Sit with your uncomfortable feelings. Let the feelings come up and then subside. Offer yourself kindness, love and compassion.
Recognize that many times these issues originate in childhood. Over time and through repetition, you can resolve the core shame and learn to love yourself. Learning this allows you to love others.
Be mindful. Being in the moment allows us to be focused on our response. Ask: what just happened? What are my assumptions? What are my choices? Chose to learn instead of judge.