Is It Me?
Is it me?….a question asked by many who come to therapy (often alone) with a desire to improve their marriage or primarily relationship. The asking of this question suggests that this person likely has a willingness to be introspective in the quest for positive change. Although one partner’s change can have a positive impact on a relationship; healthy, sustainable relationships flourish when both partners are willing to be introspective and to take responsibility for their part when conflict arises.
Let’s face it, we all dig our heels in at times. The nagging “Is it me?” question seems to be most often asked by the partner who is more likely to yield (Y) and to compromise for the sake of the relationship. An unyielding partner (U), on the other hand, may have difficulty compromising and consequently less likely to ponder the “Is it me?” question at all. Unyielding partners often approach their relationship from a win/lose perspective and interact with the intention of gaining compliance from their spouse. When this type of yielding/unyielding dynamic (Y/U) defines a relationship, conflicts may only be resolved when the yielding partner completely acquiesces to the wishes of the other. This lopsided approach may help keep the peace in the short term, but will interfere with the development of mutuality and emotional intimacy that is so necessary for the long term. Consistently yielding to one’s spouse is simply not sustainable. Although it is unrealistic to expect that every argument will be resolved to the satisfaction of both partners, it is realistic to expect balance over time.
So….back to the question “Is it me?” The answer is that neither the solution, nor the problem lies with one partner alone. Perhaps other questions may be more productive:
Am I expected, or do I expect my partner/wife/husband, to give in all the time?
Do I feel uncomfortable talking with my spouse about problems or issues affecting our relationship?
Have problems remained unresolved in the past?
Have I given up trying to talk to my wife/husband? Does it seem that he or she has given up trying to talk to me?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, it is likely you are in a Y/U relationship. If so the following methods of communicating and asserting control may be familiar:
COUNTERING is communication specifically intended to block further communication. The unyielding partner may use it to invalidate the thoughts, feelings, and experience of his/her spouse.
U: I noticed the car is running a little rough.
Y: Yeah, I noticed the same thing the other day.
U: You don’t know anything about cars. You don’t know what you are talking about.
Y: I was simple agreeing with you.
U: You never agree with me.
DISCOUNTING is communication that devalues the other by saying the other’s experience is wrong.
Y: I felt sad when you yelled at Tommy when he didn’t play well at his game.
U: (An unyeilding partner might respond with any of the following):
You’re too sensitive.
You’re so rigid.
You just love to create drama.
You’re just trying to start another argument.
BLOCKING is communication intended to shut down further communication.
Y: It doesn’t feel that this has been resolved, I’d like to set a time to talk more about this tomorrow.
U: You always have to have the last word. -or- You always have to be right.
BLAMING accuses the other of some wrong doing as justification for the unyielding spouse’s behavior.
Y: I’d like for us to spend more time together.
U: Why are you always attacking me? Maybe we would spend more time together if you’d start pulling your own weight around here.
Do you see similarities here to how you and your partner communicate? Check back for more article in this series and learn how to break free of dysfunctional dynamics in your relationship.
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