Linda Arnold: Are your partner’s annoying habits driving you away?
Why don’t you put things back where they belong? Do you have to have every light on? Why is the TV so loud? Sound familiar? If resentment is hijacking your relationship, it could be a wake-up call. Maybe you’re frustrated and feel like your partner has changed his or her personality. Can you ever regain the magic?
Where’s the Spark?
First of all, that spark in the beginning was driven largely by electrochemical releases in your body — serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin. Yummmm, all those happy hormones. This feeling is sustained, on the average, from four months to a year. You probably know folks who drift from relationship to relationship about every four months to a year. Bingo, they’re chasing that initial “high” created by those chemical cocktails. And it’s very real.After that wears off, relationships enter other stages.
Chinks appear in the armor, and an undercurrent starts to build up. It happens in virtually every relationship even the most loving. And it’s how you handle these common occurrences that determine whether you’ll sustain the heights of love, or you’re doomed to the depths of disappointment.
Projection, Your Honor!
“What if we told you that your partner is annoying you, disappointing you, or frustrating you precisely because of the love you’re experiencing together,” ask therapists and relationship experts, Katie and Gay Hendricks, authors of Conscious Loving.
We all come into relationships with pain from our past, both in our childhoods and previous relationships. Lessons are learned along the way. If not, we’re destined to repeat them in the next relationship.
Our primary relationships often shine a spotlight on areas we need to work on internally. That’s why the one who knows you best, your partner, can push that button that gets on your very last nerve. He or she serves as a mirror that reflects back on you, and shows you what’s holding you back.
While you certainly need to work on things externally, a good place to start is internally. If you feel like your partner is not appreciating or respecting you, go inside and see where you’re not respecting yourself. Maybe you’ve set boundaries you never keep. It’s eroding your own soul, yet you project that back onto your partner.
And then there’s our “living laboratory of life” where the rubber hits the road. Of course, we all want a kind, compassionate (and passionate) relationship. When stressed to the max, though, with kids, jobs, caregiving, financial pressures, etc., it’s hard to remember your priorities. And then something snaps.
When you feel like you might get hurt emotionally by your partner, your subconscious cooks up all sorts of ways to protect you from possible pain. You become hyper vigilant about the way she drives or the fact he leaves his stuff lying around.
Before you know it, you’re off to the races. You start to nitpick over the smallest of things, and it becomes your way of life. You’re likely in one of the middle stages of commitment or marriage. I found lots of stages in my research, although they generally boiled down to:
Time out. There is a reset button. It’s yours, though. You can’t reset your partner’s button. Everything starts with YOUR thoughts, intentions and actions.
Don’t wait for your partner to make things all right for you by changing. First of all, he or she may not see the need to change. And your need to control the situation will just continue to make you miserable.
Your Love Language
We all speak our own love language. Your partner is wired to give love in the same way he or she is wired to receive it. Maybe you’ve been going about showing your love the wrong way.
In “The Five Love Languages” by author Gary Chapman, you and your partner can take a short quiz to determine your preferred style of receiving love. The five types are:
1. Words of affirmation
2. Acts of service
3. Receiving gifts
4. Quality time
5. Physical touch
You may be yearning to hear compliments from your partner, or to receive little love notes. And he keeps doing acts of service “show” his love. Message sent is not message received.
Once you know your preferred love language (and your partner’s) you can communicate in the way that’s most receptive to one another. Maybe that Act of Service of mowing the lawn or repairing the broken latch is not as meaningful to her if she’s coming from a Quality Time orientation. Try taking a walk or watching a TV movie together.
Happily. Even. After. It’s the new “happily ever after.” My friend and author, Arielle Ford, does an amazing job of busting through lots of relationship myths and providing a blueprint for igniting and keeping the spark alive in her book, “Turn Your Mate Into Your Soulmate.”
The book is chock full of actual case studies of relationship turnarounds peppered with wisdom about irreconcilable differences, rebuilding trust, rewriting your victim story and sacred contracts. If you’re stuck in a rut, this could be a valuable resource for you.
So, it’s up to the two of you to realize when “sweating the small stuff” is eroding your relationship. Do the inner and outer work. Dig deep. And don’t settle for less!
As Julia Roberts said to Richard Gere in the movie, Pretty Woman, “I want the fairy tale.”
Linda Arnold Live Life Fully, all rights reserved. Linda Arnold, M.A., M.B.A., is a syndicated columnist, psychological counselor and Founder of a multi-state marketing company.