(The First of a 3 Part Series)
I love being outside as the temperature warms up. Spring is a time of change. Every year I find myself in awe of how naturally these changes occur. The snow melts, making room for the green grass; buds start forming on the trees and the early spring flowers pop up from their hiding places. Although you may have a preference, in every season, there is beauty and wonder.
As we learned from the winter that would never end, nature does NOT respond to criticism or blaming. While the same is true for human beings, somehow partners can often find themselves trying to change each other through such negative interactions.
WHY IS IT THAT WE HURT THE ONES WE LOVE THE MOST?
As someone dedicated to fostering healthy relationships personally and professionally, I believe understanding the answers and solutions to this problem are paramount to our happiness. When I facilitated our Partner Assault Response (PAR) program, the guiding theories were that men chose to use abuse against their female partners because they felt entitled and it worked. In an effort to mask feelings of inferiority or powerlessness stemming from past traumas and life’s stressors, abusive individuals use a variety of tactics to assert power and control. Shame or a feeling of unworthiness was often an underlying experience for most of these men, which we helped them discover only ends up being heightened, NOT lessened by hurting the ones we love. Eventually people find a way to leave or pull away emotionally and one is left alone and lost. No wonder the time of separation can be such a vulnerable and even fatal time for women.
But it is not just men charged with abuse who engage in negative interactions with their partners. Both men and women from all walks of life are equally vulnerable to engaging in criticism and blame. In fact, couple experts Dr. Helen Hunt and Dr. Harville Hendrix, confessed in a webinar I watched recently that their commitment to zero negativity arose after finding themselves in subtle and not so subtle ways putting each other down in a an effort to help or rid the other of bad habits. Somewhere society has internalized the mistaken belief that motivation is born out of tough love. When partners take on the responsibility for changing their partners, they are only left feeling more distant and disempowered as such threats to emotional survival are staved off by attacking back or turning away. In essence, as neuroscience explains, the partner’s harsh words are experienced in much the same way as a tiger or car coming at us. Definitely not the conditions needed for growth and connection.
Nicole, April 2014