You may remember growing up with clichés like “do not cry over spilled milk” or “the past is the past…you should not live in the past.” Those rules for coping with feelings were prominent when pop music discouraged “big boys” from crying and hit movies suggested “love meant never having to say you are sorry.” There were so many rules for how we should feel or act that it is no wonder so many of us found ways to dull the pain of living.
While the journey down memory lane may be nostalgic, those rules for coping with our emotions can cause many problems in our adult lives and in our romantic relationships.
This is especially true if the relationship in question has endured emotional injury. Emotional injury can be endured through life experiences such as financial hardship or sickness. It can also occur as a result of the harms that partners have caused each other. In such challenging moments we will intuitively reach into our bag of coping skills and more likely than not, we will choose one that is familiar to us. While the cliché we administer to our plight may sound good, it will do very little to bring any true relief.
The pain associated with romantic rejection, for example, may not be addressed adequately through the well meaning condolences of loved ones who proclaim there are “a great many fish in the sea” or “time heals all wounds”. The feelings that remain after the memory of the well-meaning platitudes wear off are likely to jade your picture of romantic commitment and negatively affect you ability to find and sustain secure romantic attachment.
There are so many examples of old messages and coping behaviors that we grow up with only to learn as adults that they do not work. One wonderful solution for this would be to venture off into your past and take an honest surveillance of some of the rules for dealing with your emotions that you learned or developed growing up. You can then properly assess whether these are or are not serving you well …
We typically encourage people embarking on a new romance to make a decision of complete commitment to their partner, a decision that from here on in, this is all there is. But are there no exceptions?
Many couples have come to us for marriage counseling with the goal in mind to “save the relationship.” They are full of doubt and fear and are somewhat suspect about the path we will lead them on in therapy. They are certain, however, that they must do whatever is necessary to prevent the dissolution of the relationship.
In recent articles we have introduced the importance of maintaining authenticity in our romantic relationships. In this article we will expand on the theme by exploring some of the excuses we use for not being open and honest with our partners – but first we offer two important disclaimers:
First, openness and authenticity does not give us a right to hurt people in the name of transparency. We must think about what we are saying, why we are saying it, to whom, and when. When in doubt we can
In our last article we introduced the importance of authenticity. In this article we will expand on the theme by exploring some of the masks that we wear that will make it nearly impossible to remain authentic.
In order to be true to self, we need to work toward there only being “one” version of ourselves and avoiding the tendency to masquerade around in different identities. If who we are and how we behave depends on the people or environment we find ourselves in, it may become impossible to know and speak the truth about ourselves.
To be an authentic person in our romantic relationships and to experience spiritual communication we must learn to be true to our partner. In order to be true to our partner however, we will need to first be true to ourselves. The opposite is also true. In order to be true to ourselves about who we really are we must learn to be completely open and honest with our partners.
Everyone makes New Year’s resolutions:
I’ll lose weight. I’ll stop smoking. I’ll spend more time with my partner or my children.
Somewhere around the second week of January however, those promises go the way of all the other promises. We start snacking, smoking, and/or spending more time at the office.
Many times our promises are unrealistic. They are often made to impress someone else. Other times, the promises are made half-heartedly, with no real intention of following through. Still others are made with the hope of doing the impossible.
What reaction do you get when the holiday season is mentioned? Do you immediately have warm thoughts of family, holiday meals, and merriment, or does your mind conjure up dark images of depression, chaos, and family arguments?
Memories are a powerful thing. Feeling memories of the pain and disappointment of holidays past can overwhelm us so much so that we have come to expect nothing different. Or perhaps, our feeling memories might be so wonderful that we again have expectations of exciting holiday experiences to be had.
If we are so sure that the pain of the past will revisit us, we automatically brace ourselves for it, and we are seldom disappointed; the pain returns because that is what we were dwelling on. In the same vein, if we are so sure that each holiday will bring the same joy of the past, we are bound to be disillusioned if the reality does not favorably compare with the memory.
So many of us seem to rehash the exact same arguments with our partners time and again, yet nothing changes. It is as if the dialogue could be pre-scripted, each partner knows what the other is about to say beforehand and then we each go ahead and say it anyway!
The truth is that change is possible. There is a way out of this vicious lack-of-communication cycle.
In an effort to avoid the discomfort of direct amends, there will be those who claim that “living amends” is more important than acknowledging the specific nature of our wrongs. Living amends are certainly important because there can be no lasting change without them, but they cannot take the place of telling the exact nature of the truth, if that is possible. All too often, “living amends” become a way of hiding from the truth of our wrong.
Many times the struggles we are experiencing in a romantic relationship, for example, have their roots in past life experiences that evolved into some pretty ineffective ways of coping with discomfort. Those coping strategies (or defects of character) will usually follow us into the new life we are trying to build in our recoveries. They do not just disappear because we have decided to turn things around or have surrendered our respective drugs of choice. Those defects can do a great deal to undermine the integrity of a romance.