Why Most Relationships Have “Issues”
Most relationships have one thing that can destroy them more than anything else, which is we take everything too personally. The fact is most of the time when our intimate partners think they are telling us about how we are “making them angry,” they are really telling us more about themselves.
When we were children we may have felt overwhelmed by our parents anger, resentment, harsh words, shaming and blaming statements. When we grow up, we still carry these overwhelming feelings, which can affect our intimate relationships as adults. Over time these overwhelming feelings may turn into “issues” with our partner. Our issues will remain until we learn that most of the time what we took personally as children wasn’t really about us in the first place and what our partner is saying to us now is not about us either.
The more we understand and deal with the underlying issues from feeling victimized or abused by our parents in childhood, the better our current adult relationships will become. For example, my issue with my mother when I was a child was that I couldn’t tell her when she was doing something that hurt my feelings. She would make me the “bad child” if I confronted her with anything that made her look bad. Thus, she victimized me if I set my boundaries with her.
If I am not aware that this was a childhood issue for me, then any intimate relationships I have as an adult will likely trigger feeling related to that issue. But, if I can instead use this information about myself and my underlying issue, I can stop the downward cycle with my intimate partner now as an adult. This clarifies my current relationships and makes them healthier and more satisfying.
The next step I can take is to ask myself the question: “Is this about me or is it about the other person?” If it is not about me and my partner is blaming me, then it is giving me information about my partner. If there is anything my partner is telling me, even a little bit about my issue, then I can listen and learn something new or deeper about myself. I call this lesson “The Unwanted Gift.”
None of us humans ever want to hear something unflattering about ourselves, which is why the information is unwanted. The gift will come when I use the situation to learn something more about myself. I can then integrate this information into my life, which will ultimately empower me.
As adults no one should be able to make us feel bad about ourselves, unless we already feel bad about ourselves. We can either learn more about how we feel bad about ourselves or, if it doesn’t apply to us, we can let what our partner says roll off our back.
Finally, when we realize that the issue is not about us, it can help us clarify our boundaries. The best scenario is when both people in the relationship are willing to own their individual and unique issues. When this happens, it not only clarifies the boundaries for each partner. It creates more safety in the relationship. It is this sense of safety that builds greater trust and deeper intimacy, which is what we ultimately want.