Love is a dance in which we move closer to our partner and further away. At some times we want to be closer, at other times we want to be alone with ourselves. Someone needs more communication, someone needs more independence. Sometimes this difference in needs leads to toxic relationships. Is there any way out of the situation other than breaking up?
IS THERE A FUTURE
There are two ways to end a toxic relationship:
- Break up with your partner and build a future life with someone else,
- to see relationship problems as an opportunity for your own spiritual growth.
Despite the fact that in such a relationship you are on different sides of the barricades, the couple can still have a future. And a good one at that. But it will only work if you recognise the problem and both of you are ready to learn understanding and respect, to accept each other as they are. If not, very quickly from the phase of “holding hands” will go to the phase of “pointing fingers at each other”.
WHAT TO DO
These exercises will help you learn a lot about your partner and yourself. It will take some courage, because this degree of openness makes you vulnerable.
If you’re choking on your partner’s “intimacy” or agonising over being deliberately ignored, the best thing to do is to have a calm and frank conversation about it. By exploring together the moments that are causing one of you pain or discomfort, you can not only get to know each other better, but also better understand what everyone really needs and whether you’re capable of giving it.
There can be no right and wrong answers here, everyone perceives the situation differently and has the right to do so. The point of the exercise is not to come to a consensus, but to be able to hear and understand each other.
If you have different points of view, that’s fine, they both have a right to exist
As long as we believe that the truth is only on our side, we will not be able to hear and understand the other person’s feelings. But by allowing the idea that our partner may also be right, we will open up a new path that will lead to finding a solution together. There are two sides to every conflict. Once we accept this idea and stop assuming that our judgements are the truth in the last instance, it becomes easier to understand our partner.
How to fulfil
Think back to the last fight and rate the feelings on a scale from 1 (“that’s exactly how I felt”) to 5 (“I didn’t feel anything like that”):
- “I was defensive(er).”
- “I felt sad”.
- “I felt misunderstood”.
- “I felt hurt.”
- “I felt criticised.”
- “I felt rejected.”
- “I wanted to leave.”
- “I felt like my opinion didn’t matter.”
- “I was worried.”
- “I felt lonely.”
Think about what caused these feelings. Rate the reasons that might have caused them on a scale from 1 (“that’s exactly how I felt”) to 5 (“I haven’t experienced anything like it”):
- “I felt unimportant to my partner”.
- “I felt cold towards my partner”.
- “I felt rejected.”
- “I felt that too much was being asked of me.”
- “I felt(s) that my partner did not let me close to him/her”.
- “I did not feel intimacy between us.”
- “I did not feel attached.”
- “I felt that my sense of self-worth was compromised.”
- “I could not get my partner’s attention.”
- “I felt that the partner was trying to dominate”.
2. Look into the past
If you have succeeded in understanding your emotional reactions, it’s time to go into the past. Unhealed wounds from past relationships or relationships with parents can affect the way we communicate with our loved one, react to their words and actions. Try to find the connection between current reactions and past events.
If you have ever experienced sexual abuse, harassment, or other serious psychological trauma and your partner doesn’t know about it, now is the time to tell them. When we share our pain with a loved one, it helps them to understand us and our reactions much better and allows us to communicate more carefully and consciously.
How to perform
Evaluate which of these statements best describes how you feel. When your partner hurt you, it reminded you:
- of a previous relationship that ended badly,
- past emotional and psychological traumas,
- the way you were treated by your parents,
- your deepest fears,
- unfulfilled dreams,
- events that you haven’t yet been able to come to terms with,
- the way you’ve been treated by other people,
- all the bad things you think about yourself,
- nightmares that keep you up at night.
Explore each other’s answers, take your time, ask open-ended questions so that the answer allows you to understand your loved one better. This is not a competition of who is worse or who is more right, but a way to understand your partner’s deepest fears and traumas, to give and receive support. If he or she tells you something shocking, ask to talk more about the feelings and experiences surrounding the event. One answer will work better than years of trying to understand why he is acting this way.
3. Write down your points of view
Summarise your position and your partner’s position on the argument on paper. Once you do this, you’ll see that everyone has a different perspective on the situation. We are all complex human beings and emotional reactions are determined by past experiences, expectations and desires.
4 .Define your role
When things go wrong in a relationship, we start looking for the reason in our partner and blame them for everything. In reality, no one is really to blame. To get out of the blame game, both of you need to take responsibility for what’s going on and recognise that you have a role to play. To figure out which one, use a list of reasons that may have caused you a heightened need for intimacy or, conversely, a heightened need for independence.
Don’t jump into the exercise if you are angry or upset. When emotions are running high, it is difficult to adequately assess what is happening and we are more likely to blame the partner. Try to focus on all the good things in the relationship.
How to fulfil
Determine what you are willing to take responsibility for. Rate the statements on a scale from 1 (“that’s exactly how I felt”) to 5 (“I haven’t experienced anything similar”):
- “I’ve been extremely sensitive(er) lately.”
- “I have shown little attention to my partner lately”.
- “Due to stress, I am constantly irritable”.
- “I often criticise my partner.”
- “I have stopped(ed) telling my partner about what is going on in my life.”
- “I feel depressed(s).”
- “I hold a grudge about something.”
- “I have stopped showing love and tenderness to my partner.”
- “I have become inattentive to my partner.”
Write down a conclusion for yourself: “Now I see that the problems in the relationship have arisen/increased because I…”.
Write down what you can do to make the situation better: “If this happens again, I can behave differently. For example, I will…”
Suggest a way for your partner to avoid such problems in the future: “To prevent this from happening again, you can…”
WHAT’S IN THE TOTAL
The more sincerely you both do the exercises, the more you will “turn around” to each other. You will begin to use conflict to grow closer rather than to distance yourselves. Your emotional bond will become stronger, and eventually the relationship will become so strong and realised that together you can overcome any problem. This doesn’t mean that you will never fight. Quarrels will not define your relationship and spoil it. You will learn to use them for the good of the union.