“When you blame and criticize others, you are avoiding some truth about yourself”
The entire time I was single I had anxiety about the day I was going to live with someone again.
I knew myself, I knew that I liked to have control over my house and I also knew that the routines I had set up for myself were very carefully crafted to make myself feel safe in my day to day life.
I remember saying to myself and friends at one point “I don’t know how I’m going to live with someone again, I am so comfortable living on my own, how am I going to get used to sharing space with someone!?”
The truth is, yes, I was worried about sharing space with someone again, but I was even more worried about the feeling of losing control over things.
I’d spent a long time (six years to be exact) staying safe in my daily routines and trying my best to manage my anxiety through control, but I when I entered a relationship for the first time in years, I realized the so-called safety I had created was fake and nothing made this more apparent than moving in with someone again.
The first few months of sharing a living space with my partner were a nightmare for me.
We fought over how to decorate the house, where to put our furniture, where the dishes should go color of shelves to buy, and on and on.
It was like this for months and it was one of the hardest transitions I’ve made in my life.
Once some routines got established around the house I began to calm down, but this peace didn’t last long.
Soon enough I was back to nit picking at him about leaving things around the house, not putting his dishes in the dishwasher the second he finished eating and anything else I could find that made me uncomfortable.
I was like a drill sergeant trying desperately to maintain the feeling of safety over her troops.
This behavior of mine created a problem in our relationship as you can imagine.
The fact is, I am not in the army, and my boyfriend is not one of my troops. He is also not a child that needs to be told what to do.
If you feel like the parent in your romantic relationship, stop being one and see how things change.
If you’re the one being parented, don’t be afraid to stop your partner and ask them what’s really going on.
Ask them how they are feeling and invite them to turn their focus towards what it is they truly need for themselves to feel better in the situation.
I don’t always graciously accept the offer to help myself, but I do appreciate my partner sticking up for himself and being aware that it’s not about him.
His ability to not take my control-freak behavior personally has saved our relationship more than once but it’s up to both partners in these situations to have some self-awareness and be willing to call the other person out in a loving way.
Blame and judgment will not work but if your intent is to encourage your partner and assist in their growth process, miracles will happen.
So how do two people manage to have a healthy relationship being together when they are so different?
Neither of us is wrong in the way we choose to live.
I am entitled to have things organized and run the way I want them, but so is my partner.
This is not a case of who is right and who is wrong, no matter how much either of us wants it to be.
I’ve learned that my discomfort in these situations has absolutely NOTHING to do with how my partner lives.
My issues come from within, that’s where they live and breathe and grow and I am the one who nurtures my discomfort every time I project them out on to him.
Every time I place my pain or discomfort on to something outside of myself, I cheat myself from discovering an inner truth that is waiting to be seen and heard.
It is my responsibility to recognize this uneasy feeling every time it comes up and acknowledge it for what it is. Fear.
I am afraid of losing control, I am afraid of feeling emotionally unsafe, and I am unsure of how to feel better.
I fear not feeling good enough and I am worried that I never will.
Once I recognize what is really going on, I can then accept that it is OK for me to feel uncomfortable rather than lashing out at my partner.
By choosing to acknowledge my feelings and perhaps communicate them to my partner instead of harping about the crumbs on the counter, I accept parts of myself that are looking for love.
This acceptance allows my fear to dissolve and it also changes the dynamic within my relationship.
The conversations betweemy partner and I change from controlling and nagging about household chores to fears and insecurities, which is my truth, and we become closer.
It’s a more vulnerable conversation to have but it’s the only way to end the cycle of bickering.
Acknowledging my pain heals it and speaking my truth strengthens our bond.
The next time you find yourself fighting or squabbling about the same thing with your partner hit the pause button for a second and acknowledge the situation.
Let your partner know that you are becoming aware that the disagreement might be about something other than dirty dishes and invite them to a different conversation that includes your truth and feelings rather than their actions.
Be open to the idea that there is no wrong or right and that sharing vulnerability will be far more effective in a resolution than hammering home your side of things.