We expend so much energy in our relationships, trying to “communicate,” to “get our partner to understand us.”

We battle, we rage, we contradict.

We get offended at what they tell us about ourselves.

We try to tune them out.

But what if they’re right?

Peter Kramer reminds us that personal growth happens within relationships. I’ve been trying to understand What does he mean by this?

This is what I came up with this weekend:

If you’re in a long-term relationship, then:

  • Your partner knows you very well
  • S/he has spent tons of time observing your behavior and thinking about it
  • S/he has a different perspective on you than you do on yourself
  • S/he loves you!

These are powerful reasons to try and hear what your partner is trying to tell you!

I do also understand the limitations:

  • Your partner may be angry
  • S/he is not objective
  • S/he may be manipulating you (at various levels of consciousness)

But, still…their messages are worth regarding. If you can!

It is extremely difficult to process unflattering messages about oneself.  Cognitive dissonance immediately kicks in and the mind automatically begins rationalizing the message and deflecting it:

  • I’m not flawed, you are!
  • I don’t need to change; you need to quit nagging!
  • You just don’t understand me.
  • You’re always so negative and unsupportive….

And so on…!

And yet, the very fact that what your partner says makes you flinch, is a sign that they’re on to something true. Here’s Steven Pinker in How The Mind Works:

Sometimes we have glimpses of our own self-deception. When does a negative remark sting, cut deep, hit a nerve? When some part of us knows it is true. If every part knew it was true, the remark would not sting; it would be old news. If no part thought it was true, the remark would roll off; we could dismiss it as false.

Here’s a notion that’s both unnerving and stunning:

  • In certain ways your partner knows you better than you know yourself…
  • And sees your weaknesses and flaws more clearly than you do…
  • And still loves and cherishes you!

So maybe it’s time to listen?

To be continued…..

photo of rebuilding at Ground Zero, The Freedom Tower under construction.

Good Music for a Good Cause: UFO’s album, Unity Creates Strength, benefits Chile and Haiti.