I feel like I've told him a million times that these things bother me, I've tried dropping hints, shown my frustration, and even downright gotten MAD, but still, nothing seems to change in our relationship.
"Where do these behaviors come from?" you may be asking. Or, "Will they ever stop?" "Why doesn't he understand what this does to me?"
If you have ever asked yourself the above questions or others on the topic of this common relationship mystery (why/how my partner got to be this way and if he or she will ever change), you are in good company. It's something I think almost every individual faces at some point or another. While there is no "fail proof" approach to ensure that dynamics, patterns, or behaviors in your relationship will change, there are certainly things that a couple can do to help.
SIX TIPS FOR UNDERSTANDING MY PARTNER'S BEHAVIORS
1. Behaviors are influenced by our survival mechanisms. Yes, that's correct, behaviors that are often a response to survival mechanisms that are deeply entrenched within our genetic makeup. However, humans are believed to be different from all other survival-driven organisms in our ability to use cognition to override these instinctual behaviors or reactions (i.e. some behaviors are, indeed, VERY hard to change, but they are POSSIBLE to change). Stay patient with your partner and encourage them if you see small adjustments, as they may actually be working harder than you think or are able to see right now.
2. Humans are bent toward keeping the status quo. Despite how displeasurable a certain outcome is, once something becomes familiar to us, we often subconsciously work to keep up the "norm," or status quo. Sometimes, counseling helps clients find the courage and support they need to break through what they have grown comfortable with and slowly shift into a more intentional "normal" full of the patterns, habits, and ways of living they had always hoped to achieve.
3. Males are often socialized to place a LOW value on emotion and a HIGH value on logic, while females are often socialized to do the opposite. If you wonder, on a seemingly more complicated level, why you and your partner don't seem to be "getting along," gender socialization may be coming into play. No matter how hard I try to get my male partner to simply acknowledge my emotion without coming up with a "logical solution" to it (which, by the way, ultimately leads me to feel either invalidated, as if I placed undesired strain on my partner by having shared my problem with him, or as if he totally missed the point of WHAT I was trying to say), the same pattern seems to play out. Socialization happens at a very early age and is often very difficult to override. Even though males and females experience emotion in similar ways, we are often taught different ways of dealing with it, even in the sense of to what degree we should show our emotion and/or talk about it. This often makes conflict resolution and communication about emotion difficult for couples to navigate without the help of a trained professional.
4. Behavior as an addiction. Patterns are hard, addiction is harder. There is some argument as to what is actually diagnosable as an addiction (overeating, pornography use, caffeine, shopping to relieve stress, social media use, taking selfies etc.) and what is simply problematic patterned behavior. Nonetheless, all patterns are hard to break. Situations involving problematic substance use or chemical dependency require acknowledgement from the person suffering from the addiction and will certainly wreak havoc on the relationship if symptoms are unmanaged. Other "addictive" behaviors that are less invasive and do not put the health, safety, or emotional needs of either partner at risk of being neglected may involve a process of give and take as to how the "addiction" or problematic pattern will be managed.
5. He's overwhelmed, hopeless, and feeling defeated. As described above, men's socialization around emotion may keep them from sharing when they are feeling beat up by their pattern. Maybe they feel stressed or inadequate for not having successfully made the changes they would like to make. Maybe they are feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated by all the examples that seem to be adding up of them "not getting it right." Every guy is different. Every male (and female) experiences relational conflict in their own way, so while these are common themes of clients I have had the pleasure of working with in the past, your situation could be entirely different. If you or your partner are feeling beat up by your conflict though, please, please, please, do not wait to seek help.
6. He simply doesn't know how. No matter how many times you feel you've made yourself clear regarding what you need in the relationship, he may not fully understand. He may not know exactly what it looks like for you to feel loved, cherished, and respected in the relationship in the specific ways that you had always hoped. And further, he may not be the type of person to ask. Many times we unknowingly assume we know things about our partners when truly we have never heard them share their thoughts or beliefs on a matter, and, oppositely, we assume they know what we want or need when maybe they don't. We are all raised in different homes with at least somewhat differing beliefs, values, and ways of interacting that sometimes don't fully make sense to our partner under the biases of our varying childhood upbringings. Sometimes these differences can be managed over time as we learn more about our partners, their actions/behaviors, and begin to trust (even in times when we feel hurt) that our partner made a mistake and really his or her motives were pure. Other times, counseling is required to ease the tension and create a safe space for trust to be rebuilt and new perspectives to come into play.
To all my readers out there, I trust these tips to truly make a difference for you and your relationships with those you care about most. If I can be of further assistance, or you would like to seek more detailed information about my services, please do not hesitate to call me at 469.322.9389 or email me at email@example.com. I am here to help!
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