(This post continues our exploration of lying and trust in love relationships; you’ll want to read my previous post before you read this one.)
#3 Use Four Steps for Working on Your Relationship
Susan B and others may be frustrated by now, because I haven’t said anything yet about making her boyfriend stop his behavior.
That’s because my hope is that the boyfriend is going to decide for himself to stop, or that he and Susan B are going to work out some mutually satisfactory common ground.
Believe me, I DO NOT think that Susan B should just accept the situation as it is now and choke back her pain and suffer in silence.
It’s always possible for Susan B to issue an ultimatum: Quit secretly seeing female friends, or I’m leaving you! But whereas this sort of “solution” might end his behavior, it also weakens the relationship because it doesn’t help the partners understand or trust each other. It’s a threat, and not an act of love.
My fondest hope is that Susan B and her boyfriend are going to be able to use this difficult relationship issue to understand each other better and grow closer.
Another of the things I’ve discovered through tutoring is that the surface issue is often not the REAL issue; it’s a distractor. Kids (and all of us) blow smoke in order to deflect attention from more painful, concerns; it’s called rationalization, or self-deception, and it’s a mostly unconscious, reflexive process.
Here are some protests a tutor hears constantly:
The teacher hates me! (code for: I find this subject really hard and unpleasant and it makes me feel dumb every time I study it and so it feels like the teacher is purposely trying to hurt me.)
The test wasn’t fair! (code for: I thought I did well but I failed, so now I’m confused and embarrassed and scared.)
I don’t need help, I already understand everything. (code for: I don’t want to be tutored, I don’t want to think about this subject, I just wish it would all go away.)
When parents hear these things they often take them at face value. They begin having an argument about how Of course the test was fair, or they call the teacher to ask Are you picking on my kid? She says you hate her! or they begin explaining Yes, you do need help, look at your bad grades…
…and the result is a wild goose chase away from the central issue, namely, the student’s academic struggles.
Here’s what I’ve learned to do instead:
Four Steps to Begin Rebuilding Trust
The main idea is: Use the relationship problem as a window onto deeper feelings. Treat this problem as an opportunity to communicate, understand each other, and practice answering one another’s needs.
Next time I’ll be talking about jealousy, and we’ll finally get to what Susan B’s boyfriend needs to do differently…
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Last reviewed: 29 Jul 2011