A pot over heat will eventually boil; the decider is always the intensity of the flame. Ever have a discussion; where you find yourself choosing to turn up the heat, rather than actively taking the pot off the flame, to reach the resolution you are truly wanting?
Partner A makes a comment, “I’m really upset right now. I just want to have some quiet time alone for a little bit.” Partner B replies: “So you don’t want to talk to me? You don’t think I’m a good listener?” “I’m not a source of comfort for you? Clearly, you don’t really love me or trust me as your partner. Why are you even with me?” We’ve all done this – victimize ourselves.
Partner A’s comment genuinely expresses their need for some time to sort through their thoughts and emotions. Their comment says absolutely nothing about Partner B – in any way. Partner B likely knows in their heart that Partner A would not really be with them if they actually felt the way their comments to follow would imply. Yet, so often, in moments like these, we choose to play the role of a victim – making words seem a personal attack, and then pitying ourselves. This dynamic is, unfortunately, very common and sincerely unhealthy.
So, why do we do this, knowing it is not leading to a solution, or in any way honoring our partner’s need for simple space? Moments like these happen when we are reacting to them out of a memory of a past experience. We’ve taken what our partner has said and filtered it through a previous memory that we interpreted as an attack. A moment where we made what the person was conveying mean something about us, personally. Perhaps that previous memory actually even was about us, and the speaker actually did feel those belittling things about us. Perhaps we’ve suffered abuse in the past that has led us to jump to these conclusions? Or perhaps these are really just fears we hold about our self and we’re constantly listening for even a hint of them in others’ words to protect ourselves from hurt or humiliation?
My response – Does living like that serve you now? What would happen if you gave Partner A some space, and in an hour or two they came to you to discuss what has upset them? What if it had absolutely nothing to do with you? Wouldn’t it be amazing to trust that your actions and intentions, that you are regularly presenting to your partner, are being recognized?
I believe having a healthy relationship means being willing to work through our own hardwired patterns to recognize new beliefs that better serve each individual and the relationship. This often takes genuine effort on our part – to stop the stirring within when we hear our partner say they are upset. To calm that frightened child that fears what they’ve done wrong, and who lashes out or throws a tantrum to divert from processing their feelings. Recognizing our triggers, looking over the edge at them without falling over the edge – that distance is what allows us to carve out new patterns. From here we can begin to evaluate where these beliefs that victimize ourselves come from, and we can see how often we call on them in likely all areas of our life.
Healthy means turning the heat down on the pot, because you remember that you don’t want it to boil. Healthy means holding onto what is serving your life, over what is internally challenging it. You want a loving, thoughtful, insightful, honest, open relationship – and you can’t have that if you shut down before even getting started. Healthy tools allow you to tell Partner A that you’ll be reading in the den when they are ready to talk. And, in that time, you really go read. However, if you’re then just quietly running through a quagmire of possibilities, you’re merely internalizing the trigger—– which is also a pattern of victimization.
If you are living as your most authentic self; taking action from a place of genuine intent – then trust in that. If you are loving your partner with honesty and vulnerability; trust in them to know that. If you recognize any of these patterns in yourself – tell your partner; and ask that together you work through them so you can grow your relationship. Choosing to not victimize yourself doesn’t mean your past is erased; it means your life, in this present moment, is the one you are choosing.