Do you feel like you don’t have a voice in your relationship?
Does your partner always have to have the last word?
Maybe your partner just doesn’t seem to hear you anymore, particularly when you’re discussing important issues within your relationship.
There are ways you can change this behavior.
Let me introduce you to Brant and Mike.
When they first met, they hit it off immediately.
They fell in love and quickly began to discuss building a future together. A few months in, Brant opened up to Mike about his long-time dream of moving to Germany — not something anyone wants to hear during the early stages of a relationship.
Imagine meeting your ideal partner and falling head over heels in love, only for them to tell you they plan on relocating to a different country — absolutely gutting.
If you and your partner are experiencing a conflict like this and you feel like they aren’t hearing you, consider whether you’re truly able to see it from their point of view. It’s counterintuitive, but it works as a starting point.
If we asked Mike about his feelings on the situation, he’d probably say he hopes Brant changes his mind and decides he wants to stay where they are.
Mike is concerned that making the move would mean putting thousands of miles between him and his family. On the other hand, Brant feels that Germany is a world of opportunity, professionally and personally — for Mike, as well as himself.
In fact, Brant already purchased his dream home in Berlin several years before meeting Mike. This move has always been a significant part of Brant’s plans.
Have you faced a problem like this in your relationship? One which — on the face of it — seems like it simply cannot be reconciled? Let’s look at the impact on you and your relationship when your partner says, “It’s my way or the highway.”
How Can A One-Sided Relationship Survive?
Recently, there’s been some friction at Brant’s workplace. He feels this is the opportune moment to hand in his resignation and for the couple to relocate to Germany.
On the other hand, Mike is not ready.
Feeling frustrated, Brant gives Mike an ultimatum.
“You always knew this was my plan. You’ve had over two years to back out,” he says. “We are moving to Germany — whether you like it or not.”
If you were in Mike’s position, would you continue to negotiate and try to break the deadlock or simply give up on the relationship?
The Psychology Behind This Relationship Dynamic
Looking from the outside in, some may think Brant is being totally unfair on Mike.
You might be wondering, “Why would anyone stay in a relationship where one partner makes unilateral decisions?”
Studies show this kind of behavior has an 81% chance of ending a relationship, so it is crucial you have a voice — and that your partner hears you.
So, why do people stay in one-sided relationships?
Another excellent question.
The answer is hope.
Hoping things will get better is a great motivator.
What are you secretly hoping for in your relationship?
It’s easy for us to make a snap judgment and side with Mike; to think he should walk away from the situation, having spent two years with Brant, his otherwise-perfect man.
How Can You Regain Your Voice in a One-Sided Relationship?
If you’re in a relationship like this, you’ll understand how difficult it can be. You probably feel as though there’s no solution. Like you have two options — walk away or stick it out.
But there is a way to resolve this predicament.
The answer is to focus on what’s within your control.
Sounds easy, right?
Well, it’s easier said than done. If you are significantly invested in your relationship — emotionally or otherwise — you may be reluctant to walk away. On the other hand, it might simply be too emotionally draining for you to stick it out with a controlling partner.
Ultimately, you cannot control your partner’s behavior.
When you focus on a situation that is outside of your control, you give away your power and lose your voice.
Once you’re able to focus on what is in your control — rather than your partner’s ultimatums — you begin to realize you do have choices.
Having worked with thousands of LGBT couples since 2007, I have discovered how Mike and Brant could respond differently to this kind of impasse.
If you’re in this position, don’t lose hope. Our research and clinical practice have shown that once a couple establishes an open dialogue without fear of either partner attempting to pressure the other, the conflict begins to ease.
We often find that the person in Brant’s position is holding on to their dream for dear life.
In this particular case, Mike’s unwillingness to even ask Brant why Germany is so important to him is exactly what is fueling his stubbornness.
Mike should’ve opened with patient listening.
This conversation is especially important given that Brant has already purchased a home. Any sort of compromise might leave one feeling as if they’ve given in to the other, which is how resentment often starts.
There are three important things you should do in this sort of situation.
- Consider both yours and your partner’s viewpoints. If you find yourself becoming annoyed by the subject from its first mention, you’re in trouble. You are fixating only on your point of view — and your partner will sense this.
- Acknowledge that unilateral decision-making has a high probability of ending a relationship. Your partnership isn’t likely to survive if this one-sided dynamic is allowed to continue. Being upfront about it can be effective in some cases.
- Work toward establishing an open, equal dialogue with your partner — without attempting to persuade them that yours is the only way forward. There is usually a very good reason why they are keeping such a tight grip on their own point of view.
In our experience, when this kind of situation arises, it means one partner’s preferred communication style is that of a referee, while the other is a connector.
Here’s What To Do Next
It all starts with understanding more about yourselves, which is why we created this communication style quiz.
Are you a connector, a sensualist, a guardian, or a referee?
Once you know both yours and your partner’s communication style, you’ll begin to learn how you can respond to them differently.
ABOUT SAM GARANZINI, LMFT, LPCC, and ALAPAKI YEE, LMFT
Sam Garanzini and Alapaki Yee are Certified Gottman Method Couples Therapists and the co-founders of the Gay Couples Institute – the world’s only gay and lesbian couples counseling clinic. The Gay Couples Institute has locations in Northern California and Manhattan, as well as online counseling services available.
For more information about how the Gay Couples Institute can help you, please visit: www.gaycouplesinstitute.org