I’m a really nice person, so why can I be so mean to my partner?
When you are with your friends, are you flexible, kind, generous, understanding, caring, encouraging, and a delight to be around?
Then, when it comes to your beloved, can you be stubborn, impatient, moody, controlling, critical, and a poor communicator?
And maybe you’ve had one of these experiences…
- You and your beloved are running late for a party. You end up arguing the whole way there. The moment you arrive, you greet people with cheery voices, smiles, and hugs.
- You just had a fabulous time out with your friends. You come home to your beloved, and you instantly start nitpicking about the laundry, the dirty dishes, and anything else your partner hasn’t done “right.”
- Your best friend tells you about something they want to do or purchase, and you shower them with encouragement to go for it. Then, your beloved tells you about something they want to pursue or buy, and you shoot down the idea.
We’re guessing you can relate to at least one of these scenarios or countless like them.
With nearly every couple we’ve been blessed to support, we find this same thing: in both the best and most challenging of ways, our partners get to see a side of us that nobody else does.
Sometimes, partners feel confused and betrayed, wondering why the rest of the world gets their beloved’s best, and they get left with the “worst.” Others come to us out of a deep longing to learn how to be the same kind of friend to their beloved that they are to everyone else. They feel confused by why they can possibly act so negatively when only their beloved is around.
It’s this very irony (that we tend to give the person we love most the more challenging aspects of ourselves) that made us fall in love with doing couples counseling. We find this dynamic to be infinitely purposeful. Why?
It’s an honor.
We like to think this is the beautiful thing about our intimate relationships – that we get to see and know the most vulnerable and authentic parts of another human being. Next time your beloved reveals a less attractive part of themselves, take at least one moment to feel honored that YOU are the one to whom they feel comfortable fully revealing themselves.
It’s an opportunity to learn about this otherwise hidden aspects of ourselves.
This isn’t to say those more attractive, sparkly, and friendlier aspects we share with our friends are any less real. It’s all real, and it’s all a part of us.
Our intimate partner simply tends to trigger us in ways that nobody else does. This is oftentimes because we have more to lose and more at stake when it comes to our beloved than we do with our friends. The decisions our friends make tend to minimally impact us, if at all. The decisions our beloved make significantly impact our lives.
Therefore, our brains are on higher alert with our beloved, scanning their words and actions for possible threats. When a threat is detected (the threat of being abandoned, being unloved, not having security, not getting our needs met, etc.), it tends to trigger our primal, less-evolved, and fear-based instincts (and it can look pretty ugly and messy in the process).
You are probably still thinking, “what’s beautiful about this?!!”
We like to see our beloved as our greatest teacher and catalyst…
…helping to bring all of these otherwise hidden aspects of ourselves to the surface where we can learn to love and accept ourselves fully, where we can heal what needs healing, and where we can consciously choose to transform whatever isn’t working for us into something that does.
Next time you notice yourself giving your beloved your “worst,” remember these quick tips…
1. Re-balance yourself.
Oftentimes, when we are giving our beloved our worst, it’s because we are out of balance in our own lives. When you notice yourself falling into these patterns, take it as a sign that it’s time for some self-care. Maybe you need to move your body more, eat healthier, meditate, reconnect to your purpose and passions, or spend more quiet time alone. Take care of yourself so you don’t need to take it out on your beloved.
2. Step back and recommit to how you want to show up.
One of the extraordinary aspects of being human is that, in an instant, we can shift our attitude, our tone of voice, our physiology and body language, and our words. It’s truly amazing. Sometimes, we just need to step back for a moment and recommit to how we want to show up for our beloved.
3. Keep nurturing your friendship.
One reason we don’t treat our mates as well as we do our friends is because we stop nurturing our friendship. Over time, many couples develop a relationship that looks more like housemates or business partners. The more you do things with your beloved that are purely positive and fun (think date nights, snuggling on the couch, having a relaxing cup of tea, laughing together), the more you become friends and treat each other as such.
4. Remember the art of silence.
Remember your parents telling you “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all?” Well, oftentimes, when we are with our mate, we can become less mindful of our speech and just say whatever thoughts are unconsciously racing through our minds. Although this can be a beautiful aspect of intimate relationship, there are also many instances when we say something before we’ve personally reflected on it to be sure it is a thought we want to feed.
We humans have so many thoughts swirling around our heads, and it’s invaluable to choose our words wisely. Words have power, words shape our reality, and words determine where we direct our energy. Choose words that connect, inspire, encourage, and uplift you both.
In other words, when you are with your beloved, we invite you to explore the practice of being silent or quiet until you can say something positive, affirming, appreciative, or compassionate.
We hope you’ve found these insights and tips helpful! If you want more guidance and support when it comes to nurturing the best friendship of a lifetime with your mate and co-creating a relationship that brings out the very best in each of you, we are fully here to help! You can sign up here for a free 20-minute consultation to see if we can help you get from where you are to where you’d love to be.
Enjoy these glorious springtime days! We send all our love and infinite blessings!
In Joyous Friendship,
Christine and Bret Eartheart
Co-Founders of the Center for Thriving Relationships