By Brian Maloney
Harsh words, hurting comments, tears and flying household objects - for sure, no one ever wanted that to be the everyday routine when deciding to live together with the beloved person. Yet, why is this such a common picture, portrayed even in many Hollywood dramas?
Two people meet, they fall in love - that happens, in a multitude of different ways, thousands of times all over the world. Then, if they're lucky and everything goes well, they decide that since they love each other so much, they want to stay together and share a home.
Now, for married as well as unmarried couples, they have to adjust to a new situation: Every-day-life decisions depend on two people's opinions, preferences and wishes instead of one before.
In single life, one's the only instance of decision on what party to go to, when to clean the place, what to wear, what to eat and where to go on holiday. For a divorced person, especially with children, a lot of responsibilities are added. A single parent has to be mother, father and breadwinner, has to take care of education, the children's need for love and all other problems occurring. These responsibilities, if mastered, as well as the comparably easy life of a single person, bring a lot of independence.
And this independence, being an advantage in the situations described above, can turn into a problem when it comes to living together. Suddenly, decisions need to be agreed upon by both parties, and compromises have to be made. Especially in the first time of living together, those incompatibilities can lead to the actions described above.
In the adjustment period, both need to be aware of those possible dangers and respect each other's difficulties in getting along with the new situation. Otherwise, the feeling of love and closeness that originated the wish to live together is bit by bit replaced with a feeling of rejection.
The natural reaction on being criticized, misunderstood or in any other way "attacked" is to defend oneself. If you're used to make decisions alone, without considering another, maybe diverging opinion, you might feel attacked when your partner doesn't share your line of thoughts or wishes. The worst, but unfortunately most common, because instinctively made, reaction is to "fight back".
For example: You want to go to a party. Your partner wants to go out for dinner. So your initial feeling is being "attacked": Why does your partner reject your proposal, what's wrong with it? So the instinctive reaction, from a feeling of frustration and defiance, is to "fight back": A sharp remark, pointed at the partner's proposal and aimed to hurt, seems to be the appropriate reply.
Even if no further fight is following that situation, the feeling remains and the bond between you is weakened. Now, no one would break up because of such a little fight. But it's damaging the bond between you, even just a little bit. And maybe in some years, when responsibilities like an own house and children tie you together, you'll find that the constant damage of these little incompatibilities have left you wondering what made you being together in the first place.
The hideous about this process is that it works so slowly. Human beings have an astonishing ability to get used to situations and, no matter how bad things might actually be, accept them sooner or later as normal. So out of pure habit, we tolerate the incompatibilities we have to build a wall between us instead of stopping, sitting down and sorting things out. When some years of low-level fighting (not bad enough to make you break up, but bad enough to slowly poison your relationship) have passed, it's nearly impossible to fix the damage done and to erase the barriers that have hardened over the time.
In order to avoid a situation where the only alternatives are professional advice or divorce, some guidelines can help keeping things from going that far to the bad side.
Control yourself. By observing your reactions and the resulting tension between you and your partner, you'll be able to easily isolate the kind of feeling that makes you react sharp and hurting. So once you know where your weakness lies, keep yourself from reacting immediately upon those triggers. Think twice, and consider if your ego (nothing else you're pleasing with a sharp reply) is worth hurting your beloved one. In most situations, a second of silence is enough to make you regret the answer you would have given. Don't get it wrong, it doesn't mean you always have to step back. There are situations when a confrontation is necessary - you just have to learn how to distinguish them.
Reflect on your words. Imagine the same situation, just with exchanged roles. Of course, you have to be so fair to admit if you would be hurt in your partner's place. Now that you imagined the impact your reaction would have on yourself, think twice again if it's worth it.
Stay cool. The worst things are said and done in anger. If you focus on what you want to achieve, there is mostly a better way than a violent verbal or even physical reaction. Or do you really think that your partner would give in to you shouting, and even be happy with that?
Be ready to share responsibility. Especially for single parents, it's difficult to get used to trusting someone else again. But without trust, your relationship won't last.
Be realistic. When you move together with another person, that means that your way of life will radically change. Your indepence will be replaced by interdependence: You'll be less on your own, but mostly with our partner. You'll spend less time with our friends and more time together. In result, you'll have to compromise on what you're going to do with your time - the more your interests diverge, the tougher it'll be to find acceptable compromises.
Consider this carefully, and if you think that you're not ready for it, tell your partner - before it's too late.
Share this article