Many of the challenges we see in couples therapy have common themes: cheating, not supporting me, doesn’t listen, doesn’t stop talking, always blaming, always controlling, never wants sex, always wants sex, doesn’t understand me…. Oh wait, here is a good one… he’s crazy or she’s crazy! Examples like these are all too familiar in my own life and the lives of those I know. So, the question that always pops into my head is, how does it boil down to a list of complaints and why do we somehow forget the reason we got married in the first place?
I think the answer lies in that three-letter word we have all heard before… our EGO. Our ego has one job and one job only – that of helping us look good and be right. It desperately wants to serve us and will go to great lengths to do so. Here’s the funny thing: our ego really wants to be helpful, but in the effort of helping, it never does. It just gets in the way and creates a psychological separation from ourselves and our partner.
In our quest to be right and look good, we naturally look for ways that the other is wrong. We go to great lengths to justify why we are right and the other is to blame. Craig and I both find that often times in therapy, both parties come because they finally want someone – in this case a “professional” – to see what they see, to be able to once and for all call it as it is… I am right, and my partner is wrong.
Even though Craig and I have only been married for 9 months, we see it in our own relationship. Probably the best example is in the area of politics. Our entire country is divided, and so are our personal views. I believe that we are not as divided as we think we are, but the media perpetuates a narrative that is very polarizing, and we buy into that narrative that most closely approximates our views. When Craig and I get into these conversations it is easy to start making generalizations about the other… I can’t believe you think that…. Your side is always. Just look at the facts. I can’t believe you can’t see it… During these conversations, I can feel the separation that takes place – and I can also feel the presence of my own ego that wants to be right and prove him wrong. It is the same feeling for the couples that come into our office: I’m right and my partner is wrong…will you please clear this up for him or her and we can be done here?
So why do we forget why we got married in the first place? We forget because we get embroiled in what is not working and fail to pay attention and celebrate all that is. Our relationships become a series of complaints instead of a series of appreciations. No relationship is without its complaints, but when we use those complaints to define the essence of the relationship, we redefine a once beautiful relationship into something else. We forget all the many wonderful reasons we decided to say I DO to the person lying next to us in bed. I know, it gets complicated…but think of it this way, what if… we were able to create more balance in our minds about the other person? What if.. despite our complaint of the moment, we were able to see our partner through the lens we once saw them? What if…we didn’t take their actions so personally, but became more curious and asked questions from a place of compassion? What if…we were able to adore them for seeing the world differently? What if…we were able to see them through a more loving lens, and see them for who they really are? It’s a shift for sure, but one I have learned is well worth the effort. It is a shift that brings love back into the relationship.