Communication in Relationships
Here is a huge red flag for all of us to be aware of in our intimate relationships: If we find it easier to talk to someone else who we believe will understand us better than our partners.
Disclaimer: In this blog, I discuss couple relationships that do not involve domestic violence of any sort.
When we first form intimate relationships, there is typically no one else who we think will "get" us, as well as our partner does. With time, this changes for many of us. It is important to be aware of this transition and to recognize that without action, this gap in communication in perhaps our most essential relationship is bound to increase (and in several cases, break down permanently).
For both partners in such relationships, it may feel like they are "play-acting" or living two lives: one life in which they pretend to function as a couple and the other in which each feels entirely alone. Not surprisingly, each partner may experience symptoms of depression, anxiety etc., which may manifest in different ways. Often, coping mechanisms involve emotional withdrawal, alcohol, other substances, over-involvement in work or children and possibly, connecting closely with others (either emotionally or sexually or both). These and other coping mechanisms are effective in creating a distance between the intimate partners.
The break-down in partner communication affects not just the two people involved, but other family members too. Children are often the most impacted by this, irrespective of their age. Thus, the couple may live together for several years, trying to present a "united" front, but the children are the first to see through the pretense.
What can couples do when they find themselves in such a situation? If possible, open up about how they feel to EACH OTHER, despite fears of how the conversation may turn out. This may not be easy and the first attempt at real communication will probably not solve deep-rooted problems. However, it would be a start.
Some couples seek out therapy when their attempts at bridging the gap seem to be unsuccessful. In such cases, a third, objective party is often useful. As a therapist, I use a specific family systems theory (Bowen theory) to make sense of how/why the transition from "intense closeness" to "intense distance" takes place in many intimate relationships.
Whether or not you believe in therapy as a resource, I suggest to you that if you find yourself "running away" from a relationship by using any of the above-mentioned coping strategies, take the time to figure out what would make you stay and participate.
Firstly, Happy New Year to all of us!!
I believe that most parents are subconsciously parenting themselves, though overtly, they appear to be parenting their children. Think about how you were parented or how you parent your children today.
Our fears for our children seem to stem from our own unmet needs or our perceived failures and shortcomings. For example, if as a child I was rebuked for being lazy, perceiving that trait in my child is likely to evoke high anxiety. This anxiety then feeds into how I parent him/her. I may either be tough/harsh so as to make this trait "go away" or be overprotective so as to not to every cause hurt to my child. Either way, I am working on my past experiences and wishing they would change.
Similarly, someone who felt under-nurtured as a child might become a highly nurturing parent. Someone who feels regret for his/her life choices might become the "lecturing" parent and so on...The point I am trying to make (and trust me, I did not come with these ideas) is that parents would serve themselves and their children well if they looked inwards and recognized their own strengths, needs and fears. If we could do this, we would understand that our children are separate entities who may be like us in some ways but are entirely their own beings. Our children will have their own life experiences that have possibly nothing to do with our journeys.
The tendency to blame the child often arises when parents do not differentiate between themselves and their children (but rather see their children as extensions of themselves). In such cases, the blaming parent is possibly reliving his/her own hurt, not knowing how to heal. On the other extreme, the overly protective parent is, possibly from a sense of feeling alone/unprotected as a child, inadvertently preventing his/her child from growing into an independent being.
I have come to realize that the only way for me to influence my children's happiness and lives is by working very hard on my happiness and life. My fears, worries, yelling, cajoling etc., are likely to have no impact on their future experiences and if they do, it will possibly be negative. What will certainly positively impact my children's future is how I live my own life today and how I model/embody all that I want them to be as adults.
Sujata V, Ph.D, MFT
Always Learning..through the good AND not-so-good times!