If your partner is distant, cold, and rejecting, how could working on the relationship by yourself possibly make a difference? In this real life example from a relationship coach, we can see one way it could.
Many people have either wounds from the past that continue to hurt or they have areas of their life that are screaming for attention. It could be a history of abuse, a need for friends, financial problems, career concerns, or any number of things.
When we find a partner while we still have such problems, it does help us to feel better. It’s like having someone carry you while you have a thorn in your shoe. As long as your partner takes you to where you want to go and is constantly available for you, then all is well. But, if you have to stand on your own two feet–even for a little while, the pain becomes unbearable. Susan (not her real name) had just such a problem.
Susan had a history of social problems since Junior High School. She was never able to make close friends. She had had a couple of friends for a while, but those relationships had gone badly. When Susan met Erik, she believed that her loneliness was over. She thought that she and Erik would always be together. Whenever they were together, Susan no longer felt that loneliness that she had for many years. She felt loved and important.
After a while, though, Susan and Erik started having problems. Erik would sometimes like to do things with his friends without Susan. At those times, Susan would feel it was “unfair” because she had no friends of her own. She also felt that Erik was abandoning her. She saw his desire to spend time with his friends as an undeserved rejection of her. It made her angry and resentful. Yet, she was also afraid of losing Erik because then she would have no one.
Erik was also becoming resentful. He cared about Susan, but didn’t want to give up the fun that he had with his friends. He was also feeling like Susan was demanding that he spend more and more time with her. Their relationship was not fun anymore. This made him withdraw from Susan. Susan experienced the withdrawal as more rejection and became even more demanding. Erik, then felt like withdrawing more. Even when he was with Susan, he didn’t feel the same affection for her that he once did.
Even after Erik and Susan broke up, Susan continued to blame Erik and was angry with him long after he had moved on to someone else. She told herself that Erik had used her–at first only pretending to be interested in her and then later dumping her for his friends and for another woman.
Susan had had two chances to have a great relationship with Erik. The first was before they began their relationship. If Susan had worked with a relationship coach or counselor and learned to make friends, then she would not have been needy when she became involved with Erik. She wouldn’t have felt desperate or rejected when he spent time with his friends. Erik would not have felt like he was being pressured to take care of her needs at his expense.
Susan had another chance to make her relationship with Erik better during her relationship with him. Susan had considered counseling, but because Erik would not also go, she gave up on it. She thought, how could Erik learn the error of his ways if he didn’t attend counseling? Had she had relationship coaching she would have learned more about balancing her social needs by making some friends of her own. Even if Erik were at fault, having friends of her own would surely have made her less dependent and resentful. Erik also, would not have felt like withdrawing. Working on herself, Susan could have created a better relationship with Erik.
There were of course, things that Erik could have done to help the relationship. But, by taking no responsibility for her relationship problems, Susan also became responsible for their breakup. After Erik left her, she soon found another man whom she repeated the same pattern with.
Regardless of the cause of a relationship problem, positive change only needs to begin with one person. Realizing that and working with a relationship coach, you can have a major turnaround in your relationship. If you are waiting for your partner to go to counseling or to make a change, aren’t you also the one who is keeping the relationship stuck? If there is anything that you could do to help your relationship, isn’t it time to do it?
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