So many of us seem to rehash the exact same arguments with our partners time and again, yet nothing changes. It is as if the dialogue could be pre-scripted, each partner knows what the other is about to say beforehand and then we each go ahead and say it anyway!
John and Elaine Leadem are licensed clinical social workers whose combined investment in the field of addiction treatment spans more than sixty years. Their commitment to helping recovering families has provided the core inspiration for the development of a "A Decision to Be IN Love"© which has helped many couples move from the traditional parallel model of recovery to strong united core support group. They are both certified Sex Addiction Therapist and have co-developed a model for treating couples during the crisis stage of recovery.
Editor: Nadeem Noor
The truth is that change is possible. There is a way out of this vicious lack-of-communication cycle. When we set aside time to learn about ourselves and why we react to others in the way that we do, we give ourselves a very good chance at expressing ourselves and our needs far more effectively in the future. For recovering couples this is the process of discovering our defects of character.
Amidst the defects of character that we have acquired over our lifetime, we have learned to play a myriad of games that will work to prevent other people from really getting to know the “real us.” These character defects are likely to be known by a variety of different names. It would appear however, that the names we give them are not as relevant as the behaviors they describe.
Originally these defects served as coping tools to protect us from getting hurt from other people. After a while however, these coping tools become maladaptive – they no longer help us anymore. But those games we play have become so ingrained in us that we continue to use them long after they have stopped working for us.
In a romance, these games might be employed with the expectation that we will protect ourselves from getting hurt from our partners. Unfortunately the opposite often happens. These defects of character will work to prevent us from developing the type of open and vulnerable communication that leads to real intimacy and a lasting romance!
We have the ability as individuals to use new self-awareness to begin self disclosing our defects to our romantic partners. We learn to share with our partner exactly how we have used our defects to stay detached. As couples move from superficial conversation to a deeper level of disclosure, the dialogue may begin to include thoughts, ideas, judgments and beliefs.
At first it can feel terribly frightening to risk revealing who we really are. Remember, we have been avoiding just that for so long. We need not show reluctance however. If we desire the self-knowledge needed to be intimate with one another, we will be willing to share who we are without being blocked by the fears that haunt many of us.
With practice the messages we tell ourselves during emotional challenges will change and the messages we tell our partner will change as well. Here is one example:
How many times, when we have been faced with perceived rejection, have we begun an argument with our partner as a way of retaliating? When our partner began to show disinterest is what we were saying our old reaction may have been to think or say:
“You never show interest in what I have to say. Communicating with you is a waste of my time!”
This is just one example of a reaction and a behavior that is based in fear. In this particular example, we are giving in to our old patterns of thoughts and behaviors and we will be resentful when we end up with the same unproductive results as always. It will spur that vicious lack-of-communication cycle we know all too well. Developing a new inner response, however, will prove to be a real game changer for your relationship. Our new response will probably sound more like:
“My feelings are hurt. I feel threatened because your behavior seems to be a rejection. I have been through this many times in my past, and I really do not like how this feels.”
When you begin to reveal yourself to your partner, you are allowed to be frightened. When we settle for chitchat rather than revealing ourselves to our partner, we are settling for less than the “promises” of recovery are offering.
Take a risk to move beyond the issues that you and your partner usually debate or argue. Make a decision to look at the feelings beneath the arguments and the finger pointing. If you and your partner return to the same issues time and again you are not getting honest enough about all that is bothering you.