Often suffering in intimate relationships stems from couples becoming defensive or avoiding conflict. Sometimes it’s because conflict is seen something that isn’t supposed to happen or if it happens it means that the relationship is in trouble. When we react to conflict in a relationship as something that is negative and needs to be squelched it can build resentment, disconnection and pain in the relationship. Some of the reactivity is based on what you as a child witnessed between your primary caretakers when conflict arose. If what you saw was painful (i.e. one person angry and yelling the other person silent and withdrawn) then conflict can bring up fear, anger or pain. If you saw one partner take the role of the fixer, rescuer, or the giver of advice you could have the tendency to take on a similar role with your loved one. A great example in intimate relationships is when a loved one is upset and we react by trying to fix, rescue, dismiss or in some way attempt to make our partner feel better. When we move into action instead of stopping to listen and respond we may truly believe we are trying to help our partner feel better and while this may be partly true (after all who wants to see a loved on suffering!) it may also be that it doesn’t feel good to watch our partner suffer, or the issue our partner is grappling with may have something to do with us and that can bring up pain.
Instead of reacting, taking it personally or trying to change our partners experience it is more loving to both of us when we shift from reacting to responding. Responding means that we listen with the intention of understanding our partners upset and and empathizing with each other. This is truly a loving response to pain and it frees the both of us from getting stuck in a power struggle or a repetitive argument. It also allows us to truly stay connected and open our hearts to one another. This way of responding helps create a feeling of safety, connection and love.
It is definitely challenging as our natural response to pain is to try to avoid, deny or in some way get it to go away. Learning how to reverse our normal defensive behavior to pain takes a shift in how we perceive conflict, our own pain and our partner’s pain. And it truly is difficult as our defenses have been in place for a very long time! However if you want to develop a loving, supportive and happy relationship it is vital to the health of your relationship. If you want to learn more about this approach please click on the button or contact me to schedule a session at (954) 793-6442. A Healing Path to Love