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Taking Control of your Relationships

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I was talking to my wife the other day and I was mentioning some of the familiar scenarios that I see doing couples work. So I’m going to share some of my musings. This is not an attempt to write something comprehensive on the subject, just a few notes about common situations.

 

One of these is that people enter therapy too late to reverse the problems. What I mean is that they come when the love in the marriage has already withered and died. Sometimes the love has died on both sides, but the circumstance that is most common is that one person has fallen out of love and the other person is trying to salvage the relationship and regain what they once had.

 

It seems to me that our capacity for patience, kindness and understanding which are essential to conflict resolution, are rightly or wrongly, attached to whether we are in love or at the very least friends. So how does it come to this? Well, we either don’t talk about the things that are problematic or we lack the communication skills to negotiate our way through the problem to gain some amenable resolution. Sometimes having the conversation and not feeling seen, heard and understood is worse than no conversation at all.

 

Something else that unravels our most cherished relationships is inequality. If you are in a marriage where the division of labour is lopsided then you are creating a breeding ground for resentment. Unfairness almost always damages our love and respect for the other person. Resentment though, is anger that builds on itself over time and eats away at the foundations of our love.

 

Another relationship busting issue is control.

 

Most relationships have one dominant partner and one passive person - opposites attract!

 

This works well enough in some situations but is just as likely to be the thing that causes problems in the end. Here are some of the things that can go wrong. The dominant person may lose interest because they are not challenged or contested or the dominant person may lose respect for someone they can get it over. Control might allow you to get your own way, but it has potent limitations. On the other side of the relationship, the person who is controlled or dominated may suffer from low self esteem as a result of not feeling equal or feeling used. The person being controlled is also likely to feel that they are not valued for who they are.

 

Last, but not least, is blame. Some research that I have read estimates that 90% of all marriages in the USA fail because of blame. The only way for relationships to grow and flourish is if people take responsibility for themselves. This is because you can only change the things that you consciously admit to.