No one likes a nag, and no one likes to be a nag. Having been on the receiving end of what I used to refer to as Linda’s nagging, I can assure you that it’s no fun to be constantly reminded of things that I had agreed to do, but hadn’t yet done. Or to be scolded for doing something that I said I wouldn’t do. My response would generally be one of defensiveness, rationalization, or justification, none of which generally did much to relieve either Linda’s frustration or my resentment in response to my feeling of being treated like a child. As you might expect, our reactions and counter-reactions to each other only served to amplify and more deeply entrench ourselves in these feelings.
Lost homes, lost jobs, lost job prospects, lost savings, lost investments ... these are some of the many casualties of the downturn in the national and international economies. People who never imagined that they would or even could be in danger of being homeless or unable to find employment have been experiencing panic and insecurity that they had had previously believed themselves to be invulnerable to. When the "security" that we had thought would protect us in the event of an emergency proves to be illusory, it can seem as though the very ground on which we are standing has dropped out from under us and we are falling into a deep abyss with no way of knowing when we will hit bottom and no confidence that we will survive the crash when we do.
If so, you may be suffering from an ailment that is common to a great many individuals and couples, more than most of us would imagine. And speaking of imagining, it's the lack of imagination that is the source of this problem. Creatures of habit that we are, most of us have a tendency to find comfort and predictability, and therefore, some degree of security in routine, which is defined Webster as a "customary or regular course of behavior; habitual, unwavering, and unimaginative or rote procedure." If this definition doesn't inspire you to reach great heights of ecstatic pleasure, it's not surprising.
Charlie: For the first few years of our relationship Linda and I were believers, advocates, and practitioners of the theory that the way to deal with anger in relationships is to express it directly and clearly to the person that you’re upset with. This provided me a very convenient justification to rationalize my inclination to convert all of my more vulnerable emotions (like fear, disappointment, sadness, shame, desire, etc.) to anger and to unceremoniously dump them onto Linda. Since I was quite a bit more experienced and comfortable blaming, shaming and raising my voice at people than she was, this worked pretty well for me. At least it seemed to until Linda let me know that it wasn’t working so well for her.
It’s not surprising that the number one issue that most couples fight about is money. Of course, it’s not really money that is activating the intense emotional reactions that fuel these conflicts. It’s all of the things that money represents that ignites these strong emotions. Among other things, money symbolizes power, security, worth, trust, love, and even our very survival. It’s no wonder that the possible or actual loss of money can activate some of our deepest fears and prompt us to act defensively as well as offensively. These reactions inevitably generate similar responses on the part of our partner. We feel like we are in a life-threatening situation that requires extreme measures to insure that our survival will be maintained.
“Most of us feel that others will not tolerate emotional honest. We would rather defend our dishonesty on the grounds that it might hurt others; and having rationalized our phoniness into nobility, we settle for superficial relationships." from Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am? by John Powell. "He who dares not offend cannot be honest." -Thomas Paine
Interdependence is the key to successful relationships.“Love comes quietly; finally, drops around me, on me, in the old way. What did I know, thinking myself able to go alone all the way.” Robert Creeley In the early years of my relationship with Charlie, I was plagued with a constant nagging voice inside my mind that said. “Why do you need him so much? You ought to be able to fill your needs by yourself. You are so hungry for love; you should be content with your self. You should be more self-sufficient. What is wrong with you?!!”
Charlie: When it comes to relationships, it's very possible that the ten most powerful words you'll ever hear are "You can be right or you can have a relationship." And the most powerful word of those ten is "or." I first heard this phrase about twenty-five years ago when a friend from whom I'd been trying to gain some sympathy instead gave me something far more valuable: the realization that being right and having good relationships are mutually exclusive and do not go together. You can have either one or the other; you just can't have both. I wanted to have it both ways and when things didn't work out that way, which was more often than not, I would generally feel resentful, unappreciated and misunderstood. The idea that my needing to be right was actually at least as big a part of the problem as the "crimes" I had judged Linda to be guilty of had been inconceivable to me prior to the awakening that was provoked by my friend's simple words.
If you or anyone that you know has ever experienced what is (usually mistakenly) referred to as “commitment phobia”, there might be good reason to be hesitant or downright resistant to embracing the C-word. Webster uses terms like this to characterize commitment: sacrifice, loss or freedom, submission, institutionalization, and consignment to a prison or mental. Who in their right mind would want to sign up for that??
Over the years, I heard and used the admonition to “Pick your battles” quite a few times. It’s actually been one of my most frequently given pieces of advice. The phrase suggests that every relationship has an abundance of topics on which couples have differing opinions, preferences, expectations, or beliefs and that it’s a good idea to be selective in regard to which ones are worth fighting over. Those different views can show up in a variety of situations ranging from relatively benign decisions such as choosing a restaurant or movie to choices over where to invest savings and which religion to raise our children in. “Picking your battles” has to do with the idea that it’s neither reasonable nor productive to be willing to argue over every differing point of view that shows up in your relationship.