I love reading memoirs... I suppose it makes sense in my line of work, since there is nothing that fascinates me more than trying to understand the complexities of our personal lives. Uncovering how people become who they are and what transforms them to evolve or morph into something else. By extension, the same goes for relationships: they start off a certain way, adapt or attempt to fight against the tides of life, take new shape and meaning over time and space.
And yet, what often brings couples to counseling are those very changes that seem so intolerable and unexpected: "He's so irresponsible with money", "She's so disorganized", "He's so illusive, I can't seem to get a straight answer from him", "She flirts with other people" .... And in the sea of complaints and finger-pointing, deep down I know that most of the complaints are not truly surprises once the person starts to think about how their partner was when they first got together.
I can't recall who wrote this line, but it captures my sentiment perfectly:
"And that it may be true, at least in poetic terms, that beginnings are like the seeds that contain within them everything that will ever happen."
If you think long and hard, you will find the seeds of your partner's behavior.
The financially irresponsible husband was always a bit short on money or late for his rent while you were dating. He mentioned it in passing with a laugh that made the whole thing sounds like nothing and you did not think much of it at the time either. It also meant that rather than paying a bill, he showed a lot of generosity by making frivolous purchases just to make you happy. Yet now that you are married, planning for the future, joint bills and mortgages to pay, his lack of financial planning is at the center of every fight you're having. Gone are the "just because I love you" gifts. All you see is the mounting debt.
That disorganized wife was always a bit messy when you stopped by her apartment to take her out on a date. There was something kind of cute about how she rummaged through her things to find her scarf and shoes. But now, you come home and the house always looks like a tornado hit it. Add the mess that the kids are making and you almost want to avoid coming home to the chaos that is waiting on the other side of the door.
The flirtatious spouse was so charming and personable once upon a time. But now that charm cuts deep when her attention is not solely on you. You're scared and worried that maybe she might be having an affair since she can pick up a conversation with anyone she meets. You know how irresistible her smile can be.
I can think of countless examples like these. I'm sure that you can as well...
The things that you brushed off or even found endearing about your partner long ago are the very things that drive you crazy today.
Because now you've attachmed meaning to those unpaid bills, those spontaneous plans your partner makes without including you, and those unsorted piles of mail.
In other words, what your partner is or is not doing today is filtered through the lens of the narrative you've told yourself about:
- the relationship ("our marriage cannot withstand this. We are going to end up homeless!"),
- yourself ("he must not care about me", "how could I have been such a fool?!"),
- and your partner ("he's completely irresponsible").
While bills must be paid and trust must be maintained, finger-wagging only leads your partner to believe that you are rejecting him/her for who he/she is: "I didn't change, you just got more critical!", "You want to turn me into someone I'm not", "I guess I'm not good enough for you anymore".
What you'll discover in couples therapy is an ability to reconnect with the more loving individuals who could see each other's foibles and guide one another toward a more secure future.
And once we approach each other with kindness, then we feel more accepted and thus much more amiable to working on making our relationship better. "I realize I always had an issue with money. I can see how my actions are causing you so much anxiety. I don't want you to worry about money. Let's work together to manage our finances."
*** If you'd like to know more about how couples therapy can help your relationship, contact me for a FREE 15min. consultation***