Marriage Counseling Insights brought to you by California Psychotherapeutic Resources, Inc.
The joy of a romantic relationship can be almost boundless. Why then, is that potential for joy so often checked — sabotaged, perhaps, by our own behavior? One answer lies in the fact that we are not blank slates. We all have a past that affects our current feelings and actions. More distressingly, it may be a past that we can’t remember.
Take the issue of parental upbringing. How your parents reacted to and nurtured you deeply affects your reaction to your partner’s behavior. Writing for Psychology Today, Allison Abrams says, “As we open ourselves up to another person, we leave ourselves vulnerable to rejection and abandonment, thus fueling some of our deepest insecurities. For many, especially those who have experienced childhood trauma or unstable familial relationships, such insecurities can lead to self-sabotaging behavior.”
In a romantic relationship, that negative reaction can be toxic. It can tear apart an otherwise healthy relationship. So, what can be done about behavior prompted by an experience you can’t even remember? Based upon interviews with a variety of experts, Abrams offers the following tips.
Understand Your Attachment Style. If you’re insecure and find yourself needing an excessive amount of reassurance, it may be, for example, that your parents were hot and cold in their emotional support, leading to insecurity.
Identify Your Triggers. Did something your partner say or do set you off? Do you suspect you overreacted? Try keeping a journal of these events and see if there’s a pattern to the triggers.
Be Mindful Of Your Behavior. Sounds easy, but in the heat of the moment it’s more difficult to react dispassionately. It takes two to tango — and fight — so be aware of what role your behavior is playing in the conflict.
Decipher The Past From The Present. Overreacting is a strong clue that whatever triggered you is really not the issue. In this case, simply step back and consider the possibility you have some personal unfinished business to attend to.
Learn To Communicate. In a non-emotional moment, it my help to open up with your partner and admit that something in your past may be affecting your present behavior. This may also lead to your partner doing likewise. Progress.
Practice Self-Compassion. Before you can understand or forgive your partner’s behavior, you have to be able to forgive yourself. Start here and good things will come.