Have you ever had the experience of arguing with your partner about something important to you? Has your partner ever done something that brought up anger about something that happened long ago?
Or maybe you’re worried that that same horrible thing will happen again?
Have you ever had a relationship end because you’d reached an impasse and couldn’t figure out how to get around it?
I see it all the time in my coaching practice working with couples. When the relationship starts each partner is noticing the good things and they’re looking hopefully into the future. Their attention and energy is going toward what they hope will happen. They’ve been successful at putting things that don’t match what they want, bothersome or upsetting things, far enough out of sight that they’ve managed to say, “I do.”
Unfortunately, the second the vows are said, their focus turns toward all of the things that get in the way of the “happily ever after” that each had assumed would just happen.
The “reality” sets in.
Assumptions, and unexpressed wants and needs build up. Little challenges build up over time and become boulders. Feelings get hurt. The laundry left outside the hamper moves from being an irritation to being a sign that our partner doesn’t care about us, or even love us.
Hurts grow into glaring wounds.
What’s happening is that the attention of each person is turning away from what’s working toward what is not fitting into the picture of “happily ever after.”
The problem is that our brains are wired to look for danger and things we don’t like, and to call up past memories, so we don’t make the same mistakes again. It’s an attempt to avert disaster.
It’s our survival instinct.
In order to make changes that will get you what you want, you must retrain your mind to see something other than what you’re wired to look for.
Love survives the inevitable ups and downs in relationships when we are conscious about where we put our attention and focus, and choose to express what we appreciate about our partner to them regularly instead of allowing ourselves to slip into instinct and criticize our partner for “what’s wrong.”