Even people who have happy relationships spend a lot of time having negative thoughts about their partner. Here’s why:
- You have a fantasy about how your partner should be.
- You are a person with high sensitivity, anxiety, or depression.
- You think your partner should make you happy.
- You are with someone who is not like you.
- You don’t see your part in conflicts.
Fantasies Falling Short
Intimate relationships and marriages can be a dream come true but, for many, they can feel like a nightmare. Consciously or unconsciously, people go into marriage with expectations from their own parents’ marriage(s). Some people try to fashion the closeness or distance they observed between their parents, while others affirm desperately that they will never repeat what they saw. Either way, you may feel angry, anxious, and/or hopeless if your relationship falls short of your expectations.
Temperament and Mood Matters
If you are highly sensitive or prone to depression or anxiety, you might be intensely reactive to minor slights from your partner. Understanding how to work with, tolerate, and manage these feelings is crucial in avoiding chronic disagreements and misunderstandings. I once asked a friend how she could get married after being single so long. “Prozac,” she said. Don’t underestimate the power of your mood to create conflict in your relationship.
Happiness Is an Inside Job
While it would be great if your partner could make you happy, he or she can only enhance how you feel. Your spouse is a separate person who may not share your moods, interests, patience, empathy, or level of sexual interest. He or she should be respected for these differences. If your spouse makes you happy, realize that is a gift and not an entitlement.
Differences Are Enriching
Opposites may attract us initially but can later repel us. That joke-telling, life-of-the-party spouse suddenly isn’t so funny. That brilliant, charming guy is now draining to be around. So do you leave? Not necessarily. Stick around and learn to understand and accept your partner. Often, the masks that attracted you cover vulnerabilities that your partner didn’t want you to see. Show your significant other you love the “real” him/her and your relationship will move to a much deeper level. After all, you are your partner’s port in the storm and he/she is yours.
You Don’t See Your Part in Conflicts
Ever feel like you’d have a wonderful relationship if you just had another partner? When you become intimate on so many levels with another person, you are bound to conflict and disagree. It is much easier to point your finger at your spouse than to look in the mirror, but looking at yourself is the only way to change your relationship. When you look inside, you may discover that the person you really have trouble with isn’t your spouse.
In short, it is so much easier to hate or be disappointed in your partner than to take the time to appreciate him or her. If you open up and learn to accept and cherish your partner, your relationship may unfold in ways you never thought possible. In the words of Carl Rogers, a famous 20th-century psychologist, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself as I am, then I can change.” So start accepting yourself as you are, your partner as he or she is, and then create a relationship together that you both love. And if you need help getting started, contact a therapist.
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