Tuesday, April 2, 2013
The kinds of relationships we want.
My client said, "I told my husband about my medical test, and it turned into a big fight."
"Oh?" I asked, "how did that happen?"
"Well, after I told him, he just said, 'We'll have to wait and see what happens'. I didn't feel that was very supportive. So I told him, 'We'll have to see if I don't divorce you, too'."
"What made you say that last part, the part about divorce?" I asked.
She replied, "I guess I was angry. He was just so calm about the whole thing! I wanted him to tell me that he understood how scared I was! I wanted him to be scared too!"
"So, you didn't feel that your husband was supportive because you wanted him to be as scared as you were. So you said something to him that you hoped would frighten and scare him?"
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This is a pattern that I notice frequently in relationships. Rather than owning what my feelings are and expressing a desire for support, people will become angry that their partners do not anticipate their needs, and lash out. Sometimes, it works just like it did in the example above: I want my partner to join me in feeling insecure/angry/scared, so I will say things that make my partner feel insecure/angry/scared.
But do we really want to be in a relationship in which we meet insecurity with insecurity, anger with anger, and fear with fear? And do we really want to be in relationships in which we hurt each other just so that we can all feel hurt together? Or, do we want to be in relationships in which we support each other with honesty and compassion?
Posted by Matt Sweet at 9:12 AM