I DON'T see couples for relationship counselling, marriage counselling, or civil partnership therapy.
Please note, for relationship counselling, I ONLY see individuals privately (independently of their partner),
who want to work through their OWN, SPECIFIC concerns, issues in their relationship.
Scapegoating, Controlling Behaviour, Blaming & Criticism - Counselling London
Scapegoating - Being Scapegoated
Being Scapegoated Some of us may have a tendency to take on blame from others or blame ourselves, and if we are not careful, feel victimised, martyred. We may believe there is something wrong with us for problems in relationships and be confused when others deliberately behave in hurtful ways towards us. And if we believe our innocence to those who scapegoat us, this may lead others to further blame, criticise, persecute us, because those that do this tend not to be open. When we become on the receiving end of scapegoating and being blamed, it may be best to not make ourselves available to this by distancing ourself, disengaging from those who blame us for their feelings or who project their own self judgement onto us, without taking their own responsibility for their unloving actions.
Control Issues, Controlling Behaviour In The Relationship
Trying To Control Our Partner We may behave in addictive ways in order to control others, how people, our partner, feels about us, treats us, trying to control the outcome of things. "Control or be controlled" may be our way of living. What we do when we can't control outcomes or others, what happens when we want our partner to change can be explored in the relationship counselling. Some may respond by using controlling behaviour themselves, which can end up contaminating the relationship. We may try to analyse things, use controlling ways and strategies in getting what we want from our partner, whether it is acceptance, understanding, attention, approval, caring, affection, sex. Most of us have done this and taking away our judgement may help us learn what we need to. Many conflicts escalate because one of us believes we have the authority to decide whether or not our partner is allowed to have a feeling or thought. One of us may do the pushing and pursuing, the other - distancing and pulling away - both as a means of control. When we are controlling we may become compliant, punishing, vindictive, coercive, angry, bullying, shaming, blaming, withholding, withdrawing - maybe sulking, or simply intolerable to others, because we can't get our own way - what some people would call "having control issues", being a "control freak" - controlling men, controlling women. Yet inside, there may be a part of us feeling out of control, like a fraud, fearing rejection, abandonment, the unknown, invasion, which for some may be anxiety provoking or terrifying, when we fear being out of control, fear loss. So feeling unsafe, insecure, we compensate through our controlling behaviour by trying to control everything around us - even money, which for the giver and receiver can have implications ("I can do it better" - may be at the heart of our control issues), yet ironically the more we try to control, emotionally manipulate or want to change them, the more our partner tends to resist. Moving away from enforcing things towards allowing things to evolve may be challenging.
Being Subtly Or Overtly Controlling Our controlling behaviour or inappropriate behaviour, deliberately going cold, withholding, withdrawing, manipulating, nagging, bossiness, complaining, blaming, attacking, bullying, lashing out verbally or using put-downs may be overt, subtle or manipulative (e.g. , apologising without meaning it, being overly compliant) in the hope we get our way. We may declare our love for our partner on the premise of hoping they change. We may compare them unfavourably with others. We may keep a self-defeating score in our head. "If I do ... this, they owe me ... that". We may want to control our partner (or indeed feel controlled by them), pushed or pulled and some of this may date back to our history, e.g. how we felt controlled in subtle or in heavy-handed ways. When younger we may have learnt to react to the different kinds of rejection we experienced (see also Relationship Style, Attachment Patterns) by pleasing (see also Codependency (Co-Dependency) - Caretaking), blaming, getting angry, withdrawing, criticising, judging, and we may continue do this now to our partner (see also Unmet Love Needs & Emotional Neediness). Being nice to meet our need for validation, appreciation may be picked up by our partner. We may try to control things by wanting to fix things, please others, take responsibility for the uncomfortable feelings (in us) that our partner has, that we don't want them to have. We may have become like a victim, martyr, persecutor or rescuer as a form of control. Money can be another form of control through being financially high maintenance or having a money making focus. Finding healthy ways to connect may be our challenge as we explore our codependent state, letting go of our need to covertly (compliance, over-pleasing or rescuing, codependency, withdrawing, explaining, lying, denying), overtly (criticism, ridicule, judgement, blaming, anger or rage) control or change our partner, tolerating not knowing and needing to be in control, so our open heart no longer diminishes us or them.
Punishing Our Partner We may want to punish our partner, even subtly, attempt to injure their esteem, which reduces opportunity for good contact and erodes the relationship or marriage. As if trying to control our partner's love, others may believe that if we punish our partner by getting angry or withdrawing (see also Giving Or Receiving "The Silent Treatment") they will change and be how we want them to be. They may initially comply, yet not love us any more and in fact slowly disrespect of love us less.
Giving up our need to control connection with our partner may call upon us to let go of:
- Our defensive ego
- Our need to control (including our need to control from our wounded place by making others responsible for our own feelings or by taking responsibility for their own feelings - see also Codependency (Co-Dependency) - Caretaking)
- Putting up unnecessary walls
- Ownership of people, resources
- Dependency upon our need for validation, approval, affirmation, reassurance, confirmation, permission, recognition, appreciation, praise, attention, adoration, admiration
- Our attachment to outcomes
Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.Albert Schweitzer
Other Responses We may want to work through our control problems, so we no longer expect our partner to give themselves up for us and speak up for ourselves, what we need. Our repertoire for trying to control our partner may be running out and we may end up feeling even more powerless. And the more we try to control others, the less free we may become (see also Personal Freedom, Individual Freedom). We can carry on in our controlling behaviour, yet the relationship itself may diminish. (If we diminish the self-esteem of our partner, this too may need examining.) Relationship counselling and marriage therapy looks at what lays behind our need to be controlling (e.g. how to be autonomous yet part of a couple, difficulty being loving, fear of rejection or abandonment, maybe our envy or jealousy) or what allows us to end up being controlled. We may need to acknowledge our own control issues, protective patterns and express our emotions in healthy ways, emotionally connect with our partner. Relationship counselling and marriage therapy can explore what else this controlling behaviour may be pointing to. Our need to control may stem from our wounded self. Old hooks, buttons, triggers may for example be activated, as may our moods (maybe connected to how through our family we learn different ways to control through anger, caretaking - being a good boy / girl, shutting off by being stuck in our head, unhelpful habits or addictions). The counselling and psychotherapy may also take into consideration any unconscious compulsion to control others, our partner, exploring our own empty, emotionally needy place inside (see also Emotional Avoidance Or Dependency In Relationships). No longer giving ourselves up, we may need to be prepared to accept our lack of control over our partner, yet ask for what we need. Taking responsibility for our own feelings, making loving ourself a higher priority that trying to control our partner may help us give and receive love. We may want to question that if we want more connection, intimacy with our partner, what would influence them the most - would it be complaining, blaming, getting angry, withdrawing, pulling on them with niceness, giving ourself up, talking things out, or whether by making ourself happy, being genuinely warm and caring, taking responsibility for our own feelings and loving action on our own behalf.
Blame & Criticism In The Controlling Relationship
The more you point out someone else's flaws, the more you emphasise your own...Justice Cabral
Blaming, Criticising Our Partner - What We Are Doing, Price We May Be Paying Blaming tends to escalate into bigger heated arguments, doesn't help the situation or relationship and makes it challenging for the person on the receiving end to respond positively. Sometimes it can seem as if our blaming comes from nowhere - we are watching it, yet can't seem to stop it, and the counselling can explore this further. The price to pay for all this blaming and criticism may be intimacy. Playing the blame game, focusing on who is at fault, right/wrong, continuously bringing up old wounds with a hint of blame may be unproductive, as may making harmful comparisons of our partner with others (see also Comparing Our Partner). Repetitive arguments may have become the norm. One or both of us may have become undermining, possessive, overdemanding. The relationship may have become abusive in some way. When the relationship or marriage starts to become "I'm right you're wrong", that someone has to win and another has to lose, it fails to thrive (see Competitiveness In The Relationship Or Marriage). The more we insist upon our point of view, our partner defends their position. Things can become entrenched. We may find fault with each other or belittle our partner. Nit picking, some of us may critically point out flaws in our partner in the hope that they will change, yet deep down know that we can't change or control someone else. Our partner may not be as perfect as they should be. The need to control our partner may point to feeling out of control in some aspects of our own life (see Control Issues, Controlling Behaviour In The Relationship). We may try to drag our partner down to feel better about ourself. All this blaming, criticising may also be a way to stop us being emotionally connected as a couple. Most of us are aware that we are accountable for our harmful actions towards others, yet we may not think about being accountable or how our energy affects others - our anger, blaming, attacking, judgements, energy. The person of the other end of this energy can experience it as being physically attacked, and if the anger is covert (passive aggressive, e.g. withdrawing), the receiver also picks it up energetically. The role we play in blaming and criticising our partner, our destructive patterns and other alternatives - taking responsibility for our emotions, can be picked up in the relationship counselling and marriage therapy, so we can repair relationship ruptures.
Whose house is of glass, must not throw stones at another.George Herbert (modifying Chaucer's "Troilus & Criseyde")
Blaming, Criticising Our Partner - What Else We Could Do Blaming just makes our ego feel superior and in control and dropping our defensive ego may be our primary task. Being unreasonable, criticising or blaming our partner often provokes similar responses back, escalating things. The marriage counselling and relationship psychotherapy can help us discover what's going on inside us (e.g. our own judgements, attitudes and behaviours), our inner loneliness, core pain, any deeper issues, alongside the options for healthily expressing and containing our own feelings, so we can take care of them, and own problems and behaviour, which is our responsibility without wanting our partner to change, so we learn to love the parts of our partner we don't love. Some of the hostility we project onto our partner may also be linked to our disappointment, that the relationship is not as we would like it. It can be all too easy to blame (and we may also be very critical of ourselves), yet it might be more constructive to use our time and energy working out what went wrong, how we can avoid blaming in the future. Having empathy may be in short supply. Our attitude to mistakes and perfectionism may also influence our interactions. The relationship counselling and marriage therapy may also look at non-blaming talking styles and how both you and your partner may help each other in getting their needs met, taking responsibility for our own mistakes, behaviour and actions, our anger, without putting others down to make us feel better, making excuses or blaming others for our own failings. When we are giving critical feedback to someone, we are invariably connecting this to their actions, yet we may frequently make it about their personality. Not making it personal, empowering ourself, being respectful and constructive, separating out the personality and a person's actions, can enable a positive attitude towards them to remain - communicating respectfully and constructively. When we want to correct our partner about something, we may also want to check if our intentions are to support our partner. How we communicate as a couple helps contribute towards the outcome. We can often get so caught up in situations (often linked to our past) that it can be hard to think clearly. We may use our emotional rationale ("Look what you made me feel", "Look what you made me do", "I was feeling this, so I did that") to justify our own behaviour yet demand our partner's behaviour to be responsible. Anytime we tell ourselves we are feeling the way we are feeling because of what others did and not taking responsibility for this, we become like a victim, which we may struggle to bear, so we may try to make our partner this victim. (This is also true if we have a tendency to yell, where our challenge may be to disengage, until both of us have cooled off.) Playing the blame game hands over our happiness to something or someone else. To maintain happiness in our own hands, we can instead choose to be happy, discover creative ways to work out what to do with someone or something. Having some detachment from our emotions, interpretations based on our history, may support us in trying to resolve problems. This applies to the person doing the blaming, criticising, and the other on the receiving end. Our personal boundaries can also support us in not having to say everything which is on our mind, and prevent us reacting immediately to things, as we own our helplessness over having control in getting them to see they are wrong and how unloving they are, so we can embrace our feelings (rejection, hurt, self-abandonment) often from our wounded place. Couple check-ins can be a space to openly talk about things. So when we are blaming, criticising, we can be reflective (e.g. "Hmm, I wonder how I'm contributing to this?" or "Why are we doing this to each other?")The therapy can also look at the role of kindness, how we may want to learn, accept that everyone is responsible for their own behaviour, choices and that no one is to blame, not us, them, and whether being right or being together is more important. This may also have echoes from our past. (See also Re-Connecting To Who We Are, Being Grounded & Secure, Inhabiting Our Body, Standing Up For Ourself)
When you blame others, you give up your power to change.Dr Robert Anthony
Invasiveness Invasiveness can be verbal, physical to our being, or physical to our space, belongings. We are being invasive when we tread upon others emotional, physical space, without being invited. We can persuade ourself we are being kind, when actually it's being invasive. We can also be invasive by giving feedback we haven't been asked for Other invasions may include: interrupting people when they are on their phone, when we stand too close to someone, hugging people who don't want to be hugged, sexual or physical violence, theft. Invasiveness disregards what others want of feel. Sometimes there can be a good fit between the taker - living as if only we count (who often sees themselves as important and others as invisible) and the caretaker, or a sensitive person, who may see themselves as invisible and others as important - the common bond being both of us coming from a wounded place.
On The Receiving End Of Someone's Unhelpful Behaviour
On The Receiving End Of Blame, Control, Criticism - Considerations Things can quickly turn from being difference of opinion, towards conflict and then become blaming, controlling and hurtful. Some of us may want to avoid any sort of conflict, confrontation. In response to being prodded, blamed, often criticised we may try to defend, explain, justify. We may become either more compliant, withdraw, lose our sense of power (or give it away) - or we may resist being told what to do or think and start to blame, control or criticise back. Both of us can be caught up in a downward spiral of blaming and making the other responsible for feelings and thoughts in us we would rather not have (see also Projecting Onto Others). It is understandable if we receive negative feedback, criticism we may become defensive, closed down, aggressive or revengeful, yet there may be something valuable that gets lost if we quickly rush to reaction. If we felt blamed, controlled, criticised when younger - any wounds may get triggered now, so this old wounded part of us looks out for (or sets up) blame, control, criticism in our life now, re-wounding us. We may blame ourselves. We may not feel safe to be open (especially if we were raised by controlling parents and learnt to give ourselves up, allowed ourselves to be controlled, we may continue to fear this now). Being open to negative feedback, constructive criticism - however it is said, is challenging. Some criticism of us may therefore be valid and we can take the useful bits and suggestions from the criticism (filtering out the rest), learn from this, improve ourself, love ourself.
Those of us who experience being controlled, disrespected or who are sensitive or have become emotionally dependent may benefit from being in touch with and asserting our personal boundaries and being resilient as a way of respecting ourself. Accepting our own blind spots, flaws, mistakes, and where possible doing something about them, healing what we need to heal in us and our end of the relationship system, may be our challenge, yet it may be important to steer clear of any criticisms which aren't helpful, not to take them personally, letting them go, so we don't blame ourself, feel ashamed, as if something is wrong with us. Relationship counselling and marriage therapy can investigate how else we could respond to negative feedback, criticism (including our own self-criticism) and being controlled, remaining in touch with our intrinsic worth, valuing who we are, so we don't take our partner's behaviour so personally - accepting their behaviour is about them, rather than about us. A further challenge may be to value our softness decide whether we are willing to open our heart to loving our partner, even if they treat us unlovingly, taking loving care of ourself - moving towards our intent to learn about our partner if we think they are available to learning with us, or lovingly disengage, compassionately managing our own heartache, loneliness. (See also Powerfully Transforming Our Responses To Negative Or Draining Energy Aimed At Us)
When we are blamed, frequently criticised it may be hard to listen and respond to any validity of points being made, demonstrate our understanding, have empathy. We may also find it difficult to speak up for ourselves, give explanations of our partner's effect on us, protect our own space, especially those in an abusive relationship. Letting our partner know how we experience them coming across, their behaviour and the consequences of no change and setting any ground rules, may matter to us. For some the relationship, marriage may have become intolerable, toxic and the bottom line for us may be to end the relationship or marriage. Relationship counselling and marriage therapy explore options and offer other support around these issues.
Turning Our Partner Into The Enemy
Viewing Our Partner As Our Enemy Some of us may not be sure how we've arrived at this point, but we may have turned the person, we once cared for and loved, into our enemy, as if they were all good and now all bad. And when we do this, we set up a scenario, where there must be a winner and a loser in a competitive atmosphere. Cooperating, bridge building and being a team together may have been forsaken. And this can be looked into during relationship therapy and marriage counselling.
Projecting Onto Others
When Others Annoy, Irritate Us, Get Under Our Skin When people get under our skin (often with physical reactions in our body) and it may point to our helplessness over others or the very qualities and attributes we see in them may (often unconsciously) live or lay dormant in us, especially our shadow side, where what we deny, disown in us,we locate in others. The therapy explores these unconscious aspects in us and how by being present with ourself and our own feelings, be curious with kindness, compassion this can bring new possibilities, different ways of communicating (especially if there is a connection between our own inner child's annoyance, irritation at us for unloving treatment towards ourself or any connections we make about our wounded self's feelings of something wrong in us, e.g. inadequacy, insecurity, unlovability and shame around these alongside ).
More suffering comes into the world by people taking offence than by people intending to give offence.Ken Keyes
Projecting Our Needs, Hopes, Desires Onto Others When we first meet someone we can project our longing, hopes, expectations onto them, which is something they may be unaware of, unable to meet, because they are not us. We may also look to our partner to make us feel better (see also "We Can't Communicate" - Making Others, Our Partner Responsible For Our Feelings). Our relationships can become not what we thought they were. What lays behind projecting our own needs, hopes, desires onto others, and how else we can respond, can be included in the relationship counselling and marriage therapy. Some of us may struggle with what to do if our partner is not OK, or how to respond to our partner if we are not OK (see Enmeshment)
In the practice of tolerance, one's enemy is the best teacher.Dalai Lama
Trying To Put Into Others, What We Can't Bear In Us The qualities we struggle to accept in others are often the very things we feel insecure about ourselves as we see in others a reflection of ourself. Feeling ashamed to acknowledge them, we have all consciously or unconsciously projected onto others (especially our partner) our ills, unhappiness, insecurities, own unwanted, dangerous or shameful thoughts, feelings, dependency needs (e.g. our envy, jealousy, our dark side), motivations, desires and actions. This may happen when we judge others as wrong or bad. Our parents, siblings and friends may have done this over the years, as we have done, as if acting out a script from our play from the story we tell ourselves. We can for example make our partner responsible for our own projections, in our mind making them something else, other than who they are. Like indigestible food, we may find uncomfortable or unwanted aspects of us hard to swallow and therefore rather than take them in, try to put them into (project onto) our partner for them to digest. And as they take it in, it is as if they have taken the bait from our hook. Some of the things our partner does may irritate us. We may project onto our partner our own insecurities or trust issues in subtle or explicit ways, as a way of defending ourselves from what we don't want to see, acknowledge, tolerate or can't bear (see also Our Painbody), which may point to our attachment, relationship style. We may try to put into them what we can't bear in us, struggling to own, accept what's ours. The worse we feel about ourselves, about what we do, feel or want (without taking responsibility for our own struggles), the more we may displace or attack, dumping any unwanted feelings in us onto them (e.g. our anger, neediness, hurt, pain, putting our dissatisfaction across onto them). "It's not me, it's you, you are this, you are that" is usually a comment about an unacceptable part of us, because we find it hard to own and accept what is inside of us - the parts of us that we would rather not be. (Some of us may become almost manipulative, trying to make others feel very sorry for us, that they shouldn't upset us, which may end up restricting both us and our partner's responses.)
Working With Our Projections In The Therapy The relationship counselling and marriage therapy can be a space where we can look at what it is that is inside us (both the positive and negative aspects) which we try to put onto others, including what happens when our triggers, hooks and buttons are pressed, e.g. wanting our partner to treat us in ways we wanted our parents to. What we can't bear in us may not only be our negative aspects, but also positive qualities - our own, intrinsic feelings, which we find too hard to own or believe. Softening our own heart to all our positive and negative qualities, accepting us and our own vulnerability can be painful, yet tender and real. Integrating what we have ignored in us, managing and regulating our own feelings, exploring the effect of our intentions, accepting our partner as they are may be challenging yet transforming. These concerns can be explored in the marriage counselling and relationship therapy. (See also Confidence, Esteem, Insecurity, Anxiety & Fear In Relationship Or Marriage) Utilising the interactions in the therapy can also be a useful way of also exploring our own projections, as we step back, reflect upon our relationship or marriage, allowing for our conscious and unconscious intentions, expectations. (See also How Our Relationship Teaches Us Who We Are)
To shoot fire from the hip can be damaging, whereas firing from the heart, reflection, may be more rewarding.
Receiving Our Partner's Projections Much of what our partner projects onto us may be unconscious (as may also be our responses and own projections). On the receiving end of our partner's projections (e.g. anger), it can be a real challenge not to take them on or in as ours, disengage, retaliate, yet try to remain open-hearted to not only our partner, but ourself, so we don't take on others' shame and blame. (Not taking the bait, that it's not about us can be useful reminder.) Having empathy for imagining what they may be experiencing inside can be challenging yet has the potential to bring us closer together as a couple (see also Loving Someone When It's Hard - Opening Our Heart To Others, Even When Things Are Difficult). Our personal boundaries can support us in this and the relationship counselling and marriage therapy can be a space to look at the options we have in responding to our partner's own projections. (See also Articulating Our Options - Responding To Others Coming From A Wounded Place, With Negative Energy Aimed At Us)
When Our Partner Is Unloving
Responding To Our Partner Being Unloving When our partner is being unloving, it is not about us, yet affects us (see also Relationship Hurt, Fear Of Getting Hurt) and we can't get any love or approval from our partner. We may be in a dilemma of wanting to be more open in giving, receiving love, less controlling, yet don't want to be treated badly, so we may want to change the way our partner is. We may so badly want to get our partner to be open and loving (even picking up their pain for the choice they have made not to be). Telling someone they should change their intent, cannot treat us in certain ways may not stop them doing it (they may even do it more), and at times disempower us. To compassionately manage our own painful feelings of helplessness, loneliness, maybe heartbreak, grief over others can be such a challenge. Yet if we continue to believe that we can't manage these feelings, we will either try to control them or we stop giving, receiving love. Yet neither of these choices can lead to a loving relationship. When our partner is unloving we may have a choice between trying to control them or make loving ourself a higher priority, so we are still able to trust ourself, give and receive love. In the face of unloving behaviour we may choose to remain openhearted ourself, take loving care of ourself by either moving towards our intent to learn with our partner (if we sense they will be available to learning with us) or lovingly disengage by compassionately managing our own loneliness and heartache, because our partner has been unloving towards us (see also Loving Someone When It's Hard - Opening Our Heart To Others, Even When Things Are Difficult). Fully accepting our helplessness over others behaviour, that we are powerless over their intent to be loving or unloving, does not mean that we are powerless in choosing whether to be loving, unloving to ourself. And when we are loving to ourself, then we will be naturally unavailable to our partner's unloving behaviour, supported by setting our own boundaries. Setting loving boundaries to ourself, that we don't like being treated this way, and if they continue to do so, we will disengage, leave the conversation, phone call, even the relationship may empower us and the relationship counselling, marriage therapy can support us with this. (See also When Others, Our Partner Are Coming From A Wounded Place, Affecting Our Own Wounds)
Wanting To Change Others, Our Partner
Facilitating The Possibility Of Change Through Being Flexible, Adapting, Evolving, Growing When We Need To Relationships are dynamic and by the very nature of relationships we affect each other, evolve, adapt and need to embrace change. Genuine love isn't always about acceptance, it is also about helping others, our partner, be the best version of themselves and supporting them in this. Constant change is always present, unavoidable (relationships transform and have many phases, calling upon us to adapt, change), and it can be frustrating if we want change in our relationship and our partner doesn't. This can lead to neglect and apathy in the relationship. And it can be painful, challenging if we are ready, up for change, have desire for change, that only we are making an effort and our partner isn't. The relationship counselling can be a space to explore our options, responses alongside what we do when our partner isn't acknowledging a problem (see also Crisis, Challenges, Changes & Transformations In The Relationship). However, if we are irritated, angry, belittling, humiliating, punishing, demanding, blaming, controlling, even if what we say is true, this will cloud expressing the important truths, when allowing a person to be with their eccentricity can be unkind at times, getting so stuck on the content and having an intent to learn about each other, can be a containing space. Finding out each other's needs and why this is important, what meaning it has for the other can be more effective than trying to persuade them. We all need help, especially if we have neglected ourself or are deluded in certain ways, have blind spots to certain aspects of us - our body, feelings, mind, sexuality, spirituality, behaviour, etc. We can be brought up believing that true love means not wanting to alter anything about someone that in a good relationship we shouldn't want to change anyone (believing we are both perfect enough), that no one should be trying to change anyone, because all our faults should be forgiven, so we may tell our friend that our partner is trying to change us in the hope to get some sympathy. Yet we are all imperfect and at times. Genuine kindness and compassion may mean gently yet frankly helping our partner about who they currently are and the better person they may be one day, through our reassurance and patience. (See also Relationship Context - What A Relationship Means For Us)
When we first meet our partner we can find their quirks, differences, amusing. We may have felt that these differences were no big deal, things can be ironed out, that they will change, we would be the one who changes them (where others have failed), especially if we give them enough love. Yet later on these same differences, imbalances can turn into major conflicts (see also Differences Between Us & Our Partner). Our partner may have very different or opposite traits, qualities, behaviours, expectations to us. They may procrastinate. They may be neat, tidy or messy. They may have an unhelpful habit, addiction, prefer to stay in pain, be unwilling to grow or change. They may be quick to anger, withdrawal, lack passion, desire, affection, sexual energy, etc. They may let themselves go, neglecting the relationship or marriage. Often, what we saw back then is what we get. Our partner may or may not change, yet we can't change them. If our partner doesn't see our issue as a problem, it is unlikely that change will take place, no matter how much the issue is a problem for us, how much we love our partner, how much we try to enforce our boundaries on our partner. It can be as if we take it personally when they don't change, taking on their challenges as our own, losing creative ways to respond, our sense of humour along the wayside. We may also take differences between us and our partner very personally. "If only they were different we would not be in pain" - may be a belief we hold. Exploring the nature of our relationship style, giving up our need to control our partner, manipulate, may help release us.
Changing Our Partner We may want to change others, our partner. (E.g. if only our partner were different.) Hand on heart many of us have wanted to change aspects of our partner, part of them we don't like, feel uncomfortable with. We may try or insist that our partner addresses an issue and they can quickly escalate into disagreement, conflict, if underlying this may be our intent get them to change. And this can end up being received as controlling. We may for instance demand an unconditional love. We may want to try to be right, persuade our partner. Choosing to really want to learn (even about our partner's resistances) may help us. We may struggle to accept we are never going to be able to make our partner the person we want, need them to be, and if we can't accept them, be considering ending the relationship or marriage. We may believe the love we have for them will change them - we can change them where others haven't. We may believe we know what's best for our partner, e.g. we would be fine if they could change. We may struggle to believe what our partner says, where they are at, wanting them to be where we would like them to be, whether it is more committed in the relationship or changing their behaviour, etc. We may want to make them aware of their behaviour, asking them to change in respectful and loving ways. Helping our partner in an non-threatening manner to appreciate how their behaviour comes across to us, and the consequences if there is no change, can be challenging. Yet the issues that concern us, may not be perceived as a problem by them, and we can't change them to see things our way, take responsibility for them or control them.
Comparing Our Partner (If we are in a relationship we may be stuck in our projections, go to a familiar place, that we are with the wrong person - that if we were with a different partner, who was more "this or that", we would be more connected, alive, certain in our love.) We may have got into the habit of comparing our partner with others in ways which damage the relationship. It can be as if we struggle to accept them exactly as they are (which may also indicate we may also be comparing us with others, struggling to accept ourselves). Envy, jealousy may play a role. Comparing our partner with others, there may be a perfectionist part of us, who desires the perfect partner.
We can't change our partner only us, by responding creatively to situations, making the most of things, adapting, being flexible, adjusting our expectations in order to accommodate their behaviour. And often as we change ourself we can become a catalyst for others to change, if they are ready and willing to address what's important, yet cannot expect them to and there is no guarantee of this. Yet if neither change, status quo may remain. In a relationship, both parties may need to be willing to change, adapt, so it thrives. Preparing the ground, creating the conditions, setting the scene may facilitate change. Finding creative ways, approaches, caring for ourself rather than trying to change our partner, may support us. Our own compassion, openness to learning may be in short supply if we continue to get triggered by what's happening. We want them to take responsibility for the areas in which we are unable to do so for ourselves, e.g. our own pain, hurt, even helplessness at times. As soon as we want someone to change, so we feel OK, we have at some level abandoned our self, not taking care of the part of us that only we can respond to. We may for example want our partner to be open and loving, to be OK so we are OK, making them responsible for our pain, that we are not giving these qualities to ourself. Transforming our need from our partner to treat us differently to us treating ourselves differently, may be our work, accepting our truth, that only we can take care of our wounds, inner child. In our need for our partner to be different, may actually live a need for the relationship to be different, change, transform. There may be patterns of relating, communicating, behaving, which interrupts the possibility of change. Sometimes we may be faced with a situation when we or our partner lack a capacity for change. One of us may be faced with the dilemma of whether we are willing to embrace, cope with this or end the relationship.
Wanting Things From Our Partner Some of us may want things from our partner to be understood, appreciated, respected, yet we may need to understand, appreciate, respect them. We may want to be loved, forgiven, not judged, yet if we want these, we may need to do them ourselves. Some of us may feel stuck in a relationship where we are evolving, changing, we don't sense our partner is and there is neglect, apathy. This can also be explored in relationship counselling.
Owning, Accepting What's Ours Wherever there is love, there is acceptance and it may help us to accept that everyone is responsible, no one is to blame. Accepting our partner doesn't have to mean we approve or agree with them, more accepting the reality. We can be acutely aware of what our partner is doing to cause relationship problems, yet unaware what we're doing. The relationship counselling and marriage counselling can be a space to find out and acknowledge what belongs to us in our relationship or marriage, what may belong to our partner and what may lay in-between (see also Differences Between Us & Our Partner). When we accept our projections taking them back, owning, tolerating them as ours - our own flaws, limitations, habits, behaviours, mannerisms, we may be more accepting, tolerating of those irritations, quirks, behaviours in our partner. Often getting caught in negative consequences with others, we may also struggle to accept and acknowledge the strengths and qualities in our partner and us. If we decide to accept our partner, then we may need to focus on taking care of our own feelings of loneliness, sadness. When we are ready to accept our partner, each with our own wounded heart, we may be more in a position to have a healthy fight in the relationship or marriage if there are differences between us, which may need resolving in a constructive, dynamic way and couple meetings can support us s a couple. (See also Soothing, Loving, Accepting, Caring For Ourselves & Others)
Our Behaviour In The Relationship Or Marriage
Deteriorating Behaviour, Deteriorating Relationship Some of the ways we behave might not benefit us, our partner or the relationship. What we do has an impact on someone else and indeed us. Lobbing things at each other, a destructive cycle of bad words, wounded/wounding looks and negative body language can creep up over time. In extreme or unintended cases, what was once a caring relationship, may have become an abusive relationship or marriage. Our behaviour at times may be quite primal, and we may be ashamed of this. Sometimes we can see us doing something, and despite this, seem unable to stop (we may even remember our parents responding in similar ways). These issues, and what lays behind them, can be considered in marriage counselling and relationship counselling.
As If We Are In A Drama Our experience and narrative is not the same as our partner's (see also Trying To Be Right, Needing To Be Right, Better, Persuade Others, Our Partner). Sometimes as we remember old emotions it can seem as if we are in some sort of drama with others, our partner (see also Drama Triangle of Victim, Rescuer, Persecutor). Our dramas may become self-sabotaging. Triggered, we can watch ourselves doing what we are doing as if we are powerless to do anything else. The drama may include withdrawing, attacking, getting upset, being pulled in, blaming as if in a high maintenance relationship. One or both of us may bottle things up or explode. Some of us can almost see ourself inflicting hurt or damage on the other (see also Repetition Compulsion), through acrimony and apathy, by withdrawing, sulking or attacking, lashing out or throwing verbal insults, shutting them out, yet seem unable to stop, as if we act out a role in our play with a script we are powerless to change (see also Our Painbody). We may want to take charge of our emotional security, have emotional control. What our own script is, and what lays behind this, our relating state, the scenarios we hold, the nature of our free will, learning not to take things so personally and observe can be considered in the relationship counselling and marriage therapy. (See also Unconscious Communication In Relationship Or Marriage)
Denying Our Needs We all have needs, yet some of us can remain aloof, indifferent, denying we have any needs in an attempt to hide our vulnerability, risk intimacy or avoid uncomfortable reactions like envy and jealousy. Some of our feelings can be intolerable and we can sometimes be tempted to act on impulse or act them out before considering other creative options - the relationship counselling can help us with this (see also Highly Sensitive People Counselling - Scale Of Sensitivities - How Our Buttons May Get Pressed, Especially In Relationships). We may have lost, or fear losing loved ones because of our behaviour and may want to heal our relationship or marriage.
Behaving In Ways We Would Rather Not Just because we disagree it doesn't mean we have to become disagreeable. Wounded, we may withdraw, withhold or become harsh, angry, blaming, judgemental, stifling, controlling, overbearing, mean, avoidant, abusive, unkindly striking out at our partner. It can be challenging at times to not judge the people we love. Being harsh on our partner may indicate a harshness we have for us, as if we have our own, internal critic or judge that we find hard to bear and end up blaming our partner (see also Projecting Onto Others). Lacking confidence, we may become defensive and want to examine our reactions and behaviour, including how we give and receive, initiate and retreat. Sometimes our behaviour may be a bid to end the relationship, struggling to end it properly. We may goad our partner just to get a reaction, testing them to see how they respond (see also Self-Sabotage, Destruction). Before looking at how we behave in our relationship, counselling and psychotherapy will also address any unwanted habits or addictions that get in the way of your life and relationship, what else may stop us caring about the effects of our behaviour.
Crushing Anything Good One of us may try to crush our partner, or we may have got into a pattern of crushing each other by behaving unlovingly, e.g. using put downs, cynicism, sarcasm, withdrawing, ignoring, judging, controlling, criticising. Physical manifestations may include rolling our eyes, continuously shrugging, sighing, turning away or not offering eye contact. If one of us is spontaneous, gives surprises, playful, expresses love, joy or pleasure, risks intimacy, shows vulnerability or innocence, the other has to crush it, and our heart closes. We may hold on very tightly to the relationship, that we crush anything good offered, even love. We may have learnt some of our behaviour from our own parents, vowing we won't do the same, yet finding ourselves dong it. What's happening for us, and we want to change our responses, can be looked up in the relationship counselling and marriage therapy. We may for example feel wounded, frightened, vulnerable or helpless inside, a little depressed, but rather than acknowledge this, prefer to provoke our partner into getting upset, triumphing in the very distress we see in them, but would rather not examine ourselves, open our heart.
Competitiveness In The Relationship Or Marriage
Feeling Wronged - Needing To Be Right At The Cost Of Our Happiness We may be trying to get acknowledgement from our partner that we are right, the loving one, go to great lengths to prove this, which can be a fruitless task, unless we also validate them and their world. When we feel wronged we may want instant justice, become insistent about confronting our partner, demanding that they own what they did and apologise, which if they don't capitulate, can lead to further antagonism, resentments and polarisation in the relationship (see also Trying To Be Right, Needing To Be Right, Better, Persuade Others, Our Partner). We may try to make them feel guilty, ashamed, insecure, which may reflect our own insecurity. And when we feel insecure, mole hills may become mountains, where we feel compelled to respond to comments, however innocuous. We may go on the attack, trying to win every battle, making it so important - that we are right and they are wrong. Yet behind our insecurity may live our own wounds, triggers, buttons which get pressed.
Being Competitive In The Relationship Or Marriage One of us may keep testing the other - how far we can go, or they be pushed. We may keep scores ("I did this for you - you owe me.") When we get caught in an overly competitive "I must win" scenario, it is the relationship and marriage that suffers. We may have put more emphasis on being right or winning than loving. For some, winning can be more important than the relationship or marriage itself. It may have become so important to us to be right or better than our partner, using put-downs, sarcasm. Having the last word, trying to win arguments or make direct hits can be more important that wanting to heal the relationship, so it can be loving. Our competitiveness may be overt or covert, and some of us may find it hard to own up to being competitive. Whenever there is conflict we may have a competitive style. One or both may play "top dog" or indeed act like the injured party in the relationship. We can become competitive in unproductive ways by an "I'm-suffering-more-than-you" response. We may compete with our partner to hurt them more, or who can feel the most hurt or comparing them adversely (see Comparing Our Partner above). Subtle (or not so subtle) power games or emotional bullying can occur. Relationship counselling and marriage therapy can help find out the roots of our competitiveness (e.g. hurt, revenge), examining other possible ways of relating in order to enhance the relationship or marriage. (See also Competitiveness)
Being Competitive In The Relationship Or Marriage - Other Possible Challenges Love may have been usurped by power/control struggles. We may have undervalued our own or partner's humility, fragility or simple humanness. Love is not competitive. Winning at all costs (e.g. cost of being empathic - remaining in dialogue, compassionate, loving) may be detrimental to us, our partner and the relationship as a whole. Emotions may be difficult to verbalise, hear or understand, if we driven by our defensive ego, stuck in an "I'm right, you're wrong" scenario, trying to prove a point. We can perceive ourself as separate and disconnected from our partner, that there is a "you" and "me", with no "us", and from this place the relationship or marriage may become like a scoreboard, with a winner and looser. A challenge for some may be to no longer make the relationship a contest, but change our perception in building a connection, a feeling of being in things together, learning to love the bits we don't love. Choosing to love and co-operate - find the best possible solution, rather than win or compete, may be a further challenge. Competitiveness in the marriage or relationship, and other challenges, can be explored in the marriage therapy and relationship counselling.
Pushing Each Other's Buttons
We all have emotional sensitivities, especially if we feel invaded, disrespected, controlled or abandoned. (For details see Our Sensitivities - Pushing Each Other's Buttons, Counselling London)
Power Struggles In The Relationship & Marriage
Power struggles can occur in overt, covert, subtle or manipulative ways. Caught in our defensive ego, we may have developed the type of all or nothing thinking, where our partner is either for or against us. Appreciating our partner as just being themselves, doing the best from where they are coming from, usually meaning no harm, accepting them and their differences without trying to change them, convince them we are right, may be our challenge as may loving the aspects of our partner we don't love.
Withholding, Withdrawing, Disengaging
Withholding & withdrawing, being unresponsive in the relationship or extended family may be indirect or passive-aggressive ways we communicate with others, our partner and be experienced as undermining, manipulative. Caught in our defensive ego, some of us may withhold in our relationship by withholding our love, feelings, anger, sexuality. The withholding may include not being sexual, because of resentments and grievances towards our partner. We may withdraw by closing off, shutting down, going cold on our partner, putting up walls, frequently being cynical, sarcastic, giving our partner the silent treatment. It may be hard for us to be in tune with the pain that we are avoiding through our withdrawal, withholding. We may have become inaccessible, this may affect closeness, intimacy, vulnerability and tenderness in our relationship (see also Loving Someone When It's Hard - Opening Our Heart To Others, Even When Things Are Difficult). Inside we may feel rejected, abandoned, lonely, our heart may close. It can be challenging not to take things personally, yet experience these deep feelings with open heart. The counselling and psychotherapy can help explore what is going on for you around this (see also The Pain & Joy Of Life - Opening Our Heart To Heal Love).
A Disengaged Relationship Lonely, alone inside, one or both of us may have disengaged from the relationship or marriage. (We may be living parallel lives, drifting apart, become apathetic together, emotionally neglectful, letting ourselves go, abandoned our partner and us in the relationship, marriage.) Our boundaries may have become rigid, almost impermeable, as if we have put a wall up around us. We may have become very defended, withdrawn. We may fear engulfment, losing ourselves, being pulled by our partner and struggle to articulate what's going on for us. Stuck inside we may find it hard to manage our difficulties or learn from them, acknowledging our own dependency needs. Empathy for our partner may be in short supply. Disengaged, we may care very little for what our partner does or feels. We may have disengaged physically and sexually, mentally - by not communicating well, or emotionally. Redirecting our energy to re-engage in the relationship or marriage - rebuilding it and nourishing it may be a challenge and the relationship counselling and marriage therapy can be utilised to see how we want to do this. For others when we are being treated badly, disengaging in loving ways may be important.
When Our Partner Shuts Us Down Responding to our partner withdrawing challenges us to be compassionate with our pain, remain loving ourself by taking responsibility for our own upsetting feelings, without blaming our partner for them. Another challenge may be remaining open by learning about ourself and our partner, healing our end of the relationship system.
Giving Or Receiving "The Silent Treatment"
Cold Shoulder, Stonewalling Sometimes we simply don't know how to express how we feel. On other occasions we may fear if we speak out we will only make matters worse. Over-defensive at times, one of us may give our partner the cold shoulder - stonewall them, pretending not to see, hear and understand things, become inaccessible, not engage with our partner - giving them the silent treatment, both of which can be viewed as passive aggressive behaviour as may doing a disappearing, vanishing act or giving the silent treatment...
Using Silences, Withdrawing Often because we don't feel heard, instead of taking loving action we can use silence as a weapon to punish our partner because they hate being ignored. Sometimes walking away and not saying anything, can help alleviate tension - allowing it to subside and avoid any unnecessary conflicts. Yet if this frequently happens it may point to relationship difficulties. One of the harshest punishments in prison is well known to be isolation. And when we isolate our partner, we are usually punishing them, or attempting to control them, which can cause fear or retaliation in them, and the relationship to erode. It can be upsetting when intimacy in the relationship retreats into non-responsiveness or silence... Silence can be used as a tool to get our partner to get what we want, change, meaning our the deal is we will only then talk to them. Being silent and withholding (what for some could be called rudeness or sulking, "being sent to Coventry"), can be a way of avoiding bad reactions from others or finding it hard to articulate what we are feeling, needing. When we close off or shut down to our partner, refusing to acknowledge their presence and interact with them, we have closed our heart, no longer showing care and affection. Hurt or rejected, we can act as though they are invisible, giving them minimal or zero response, not only mentally, but also emotionally, and physically, sexually. Our hope by treating them in this manner is that they get the message, they have displeased us. Because they've done something wrong, they deserve punishment and have our love withheld. Yet it may be our approval, which is taken away as a form of control, often because we are angry, hurt, feel resentful or bitter and unheard. This may work temporarily. In any of our unloving actions we may be lonely inside, suppressing our emotions, struggle to find a way back and be threatened by the relationship or marriage. The longer we carry it on, the harder we may find it to come back. When we withdraw, it is often our fear system which is aroused, which takes us out of connection with others, maybe ourselves and this can be explored in the therapy, alongside any underlying issues. For some this may include a realisation that we no longer love our partner, and instead of speaking our truth, we prefer to show an emotional abandonment, which can also be seen as a form of emotional abuse. What is going on for us can be explored in the relationship counselling and marriage therapy.
Receiving The Silent Treatment - Being Stonewalled If we have an avoidant, dismissive partner, inside we may become lonely, isolated, insignificant, heartbroken, unloved, intimidated maybe feel controlled. We may also feel angry, resentful and reluctant to manage our own emotions, punishing our partner in return. When we are on the receiving end of punishment by "the silent treatment", we may initially try to please, reconnect and it can be tempting to coax them back or play games, responding negatively to any bad behaviour. Our own resistance may cause further problems for us, our partner, and indeed the relationship (see also Healthy Boundaries & Resilience In Relationships). Sometimes it may be a good strategy to allow a cooling down period for us and our partner, so both of us are calm and can emotionally connect, listen to each other again after the cooling off period. Inside, we may blame ourselves and feel abandoned, allowing "the silent treatment" to control us, erode our self-esteem. When this happens, it can be challenging to take full care and responsibility for ourselves and our own feelings, so we don't act out, which empowers us. Our responses and choices can be explored in the marriage counselling and relationship therapy. We may blame ourself, as if we have done something wrong, feel scared, anxious, abandoned, alone. No longer abandoning ourself we can acknowledge that our partner is punishing us rather than taking responsibility for their feelings, that we have no responsibility for how they are dealing with it and have no control over them. Reassuring, validating ourself, engaging with what makes us happy, e.g. going for a walk, calling a friend, reading a book and keeping our own heart open without going into anger or judgement towards our partner, so when our partner decides to be open, we are not holding onto any residue or need to punish them back, but embracing our loneliness and heartbreak with self-compassion, as we take loving care of ourselves. (See also On The Receiving End Of Passive Aggression).
Our issues only get triggered within our relationship - not when we're alone. The closer the relationship, the deeper the wounds become activated, providing us with opportunities to heal whet we need to heal, learn, love.
Putting Up Walls In The Relationship Or Marriage
In building relationships with others, what style, design, materials do I utilise and do I prefer building bridges or walls?
Constructing Bridges Or Building Walls Alongside putting up walls of silence, we may put up walls of words (often a barrage), anger, superficial pleasantness or seductiveness. We may have become distancing in the relationship or marriage, stonewalling them as a form of protection, refusing to engage, respond (see also How Numbing Our Feelings May Affect Relationships). Some of us may consistently remain remote with our partner, so we don't have to emotionally engage with them. Others may withdraw, dull or numb everything, rendering it hard for them reach out or be reached. We may not give a lot back. We may also close off, shut down, bottle things up, remain stuck in our head. The relationship counselling and marriage therapy can explore what may lay behind our walls, any options we have to build bridges, dropping our defensive ego, loving the bits of our partner we don't love, if that is our choice. (See also Stuckness, Staleness, Neglect & Apathy In The Relationship Counselling London)
The course of true love never did run smooth.William Shakespeare
Locked Into Positions In Our Relationship
When Conflict Escalates Sometimes in a relationship, marriage both parties may believe they are right and when two strong wills get together resolving conflict may not be possible, unless both parties are open to learning rather than trying to win, be right, not lose. When conflict occurs often the fight-flight mechanism becomes activated.
Inflexible Positions One, or both of us, can get locked (deadlocked) into fixed positions, which may no longer work, especially when the tension builds. These entrenched positions may have become rigid and inflexible, and can create destructive cycles, so we are at loggerheads with each other, as if in a battle. In the relationship counselling and marriage psychotherapy we can explore how we might disengage from battling away, be more flexible in our responses. We and the relationship may have become stuck. This can include the way we feel, think and believe, behave, and the rigid roles we take in the relationship.
Examples of stuckness may include:
- Feelings: "You are responsible for the way I feel"
- Mind, Thoughts & Beliefs - Counselling London: "If only you would...", "I deserve...", "I expect..."
- Behaviours: Controlling, withdrawing, ignoring, withholding, compliance, passivity, retaliating, constant bickering, attacking, blaming, cynicism
- Rigid roles we take or assume: "My role is to... & that's my territory, your role is to... & that's your territory" (see also Relationship Roles, Patterns & Characteristics)
A "fanatic" is one who can't change his mind, and won't change the subject.Winston Churchill
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