Something is Missing, but it’s not LOVE
So often, it’s not the love that is missing; it’s the loving behavior. Fighting, bickering, criticizing have become the language of everyday life, replacing the joy and love that was once so easy and natural. You may even be considering leaving – not because you don’t love your partner, but you are tired of the pain.
You may be in the “power struggle”, aka “growth trying to happen”. Conflicts can become connections when we establish a new way to interact. Also, is it possible that what your partner ultimately asks of you would make you a better person?
Two important ways you can improve your relationship: One is HOW you communicate; the other is eliminating negativity (blame, shame, criticism).
Understand that communication is negative and hurtful because you’re defending. You may even be thinking that the other person wants you to hurt. Or that if the other person would just come around to your perspective, all would be ok. “You and I are one, and I’m the ONE”, right? We’ve got to get that there is room for both people in this relationship. Not one, but TWO. The differences between two people are natural, and ok. I would recommend that you try approaching the differences with curiosity rather than demands or defensiveness. When I say defensive, think “claws”. “Why would your partner come anywhere near you when your claws are swiping ”? It only creates more need to defend, whether passive or aggressive, and it perpetuates the fighting and pain. Take a break from adrenaline-induced fighting, and when you’re calmer, and with your claws tucked away, and ask your partner to describe his/her feelings. Listen with true curiosity and compassion. Try to imagine what it’s like to be him /her.
I often ask my clients “what do you want”? And the answer is “well I want her to stop doing X”. Then I say “Ok, what would she be doing instead”? That one requires thoughtful re-framing. We would benefit greatly from framing our requests in the positive. Instead of “stop doing x”, think for a moment, what is it that I really want? For example, “I want to state my perspective and have you accept it at face value” is much easier for her to hear than “you are so critical”! Notice the positive statement begins with “I” and the negative statement begins with “you”. Criticism plucks the “shame” chord, and HURTS your partner. Much more effective is “I want to be loved unconditionally”.
Eliminating negativity in your requests involves you taking responsibility for asking for what you DO want, and doing so in a way that invites the loving tenderness you seek. Understand that your partner has needs and desires, too. Ask your partner how you can help. Let your guard down and listen. Be responsive rather than reactive.
Intimacy is vulnerability. Vulnerability involves risk. If you see your partner vulnerable, show up with tenderness. Respond with loving behavior and defensiveness will be replaced with something far more satisfying.