Couple fight: It takes two but it starts with you

What makes blame the bugbear in man-woman relationship?

CoupleWhenever a couple comes to us for a counselling session for the first time, there is hope written all over their faces - both of them feel that finally there are people, like us, who will transform the flawed partner and bring peace into the relationship. As the session commences they are both in for a rude shock, when we tell them that "It takes two, but it starts with you."

Remember, if your contract with me reads, "I want to save my relationship but please keep me out of it," you have lost even before you have begun.

If you need to keep playing the "victim" role, with your partner as the "big bad wolf," and if you see the cause of your situation as outside yourself, you are again fighting a losing battle.

If you remain in counselling with the spirit of "competition" with your partner, rather than "co-operation," better know that this is a "no-win" situation.

If you have come to "blame" the other, rather than "claim" responsibility for your contribution to the problem, the relationship is doomed.

Blame, to put it succinctly, ends in "me" and growth begins where blaming ends. Success in relationship counselling, therefore, depends on whether the partners are willing to honestly acknowledge their own contribution to the relationship problem, and whether they are willing to actively do something to eliminate this contribution.

Be positive

We can either contaminate your relationship or positively contribute to the relationship in some way, or the other. A healthy relationship is one where the contaminants are identified and eliminated and positive contribution is increased.

Now you may wonder, "Why this all-encompassing focus on me? I'm just one-half of this deal. I'm fine about making my life better, but what about my partner?"

Well, the answer - you can't make changes for your partner. You can't tell your partner what to do. But, you can "inspire" your partner. You can give your partner a whole new set of stimuli to respond to, provided -

  • You eliminate your self-defeating ideas, flawed beliefs and irrational behaviour
  • You drop out of your destructive mind-set and vicious circle of mutually frustrating interactions with your partner
  • You drop out of the fight and start living a new way. When this happens, it's going to be real difficult for your partner to continue spewing and spitting venom
  • You are bettering yourself as a person and continuously actualising yourself
  • You stop sabotaging yourself and the relationship.

Now, in the face of such constructive input, s/he cannot fight alone, argue alone, or continue to be offended. Your partner can pout for a while; perhaps, withdraw and be suspicious for a while, but eventually s/he is going to feel pretty stupid sitting over in the corner while you seem to be getting so much more rational, balanced, happier, optimistic, and at peace with yourself.

So, don't wait for the other to irrigate the plant. Do your bit and continue to nourish the relationship, because if nothing else you will emerge a better person with solid inner strength, and more importantly, at ease with yourself.

Past ain't Perfect

Couples often bring a lot of "bag and baggage" of their past into the relationship, and unless both of them are willing to move their position on some very deep flawed beliefs, long-held emotions and behavioural patterns, the relationship does not stand a chance. Couples need to embrace a new kind of rational thinking, a new and appropriate belief system, a new way of looking at oneself and the partner, and subsequently appropriate and healthy interpersonal behaviour.

To achieve healthy interpersonal relations both the partners need to individually work towards identifying their own irrational beliefs, challenging their deeply conditioned responses, and generating new and healthy ways of thinking and behaviours to replace old faulty ones.

All those having relationship problems need to get out of the "victim" mode and ask themselves the all-important question, "In what way am I responsible for the situation in which I find myself today?" It is neurotic to believe that there is something besides yourself to look as the cause of this or any other situation that now defines your life. Pointing the finger outwards towards the other for long, may prevent one from seeing the three fingers pointing inwards towards oneself. The truth is a bad relationship cannot exist if it is not fed and nurtured in some way; a good relationship cannot exist unless it is fed and nurtured in some way.

If your life principles are designed to allow distancing instead of intimacy, competitiveness instead of co-operation, blame instead of responsibility, rejection instead of acceptance, rigidity instead of flexibility, it is truly no surprise that you are experiencing pain in your relationship. A relationship is like a plant which needs to be carefully watered by both partners, along with the right soil and climate for it to flourish into a strong and healthy tree. If the plant is withering away, and if there are weeds growing in the soil, somehow the environment is tentatively supporting its very existence or else it can't be.

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Minnu Bhonsle
Minnu R Bhonsle, PhD, is a Mumbai-based consulting psychotherapist and counsellor. She conducts training programmes in Personal Counselling [Client-centred Therapy] and Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, and also workshops in Stress Management, Art of Listening, Couple Therapy, and Communication Skills. Minnu has co-authored the book, The Ultimate Sex Education Guide along with Dr Rajan Bhonsle.

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