We’ve all done it: bitched and moaned to friends and family about our partner – listing every misdemeanour, explaining all of the ways in which they have been letting us down – only to get it off our chest and feel so much better about them. Until next time. But, each time we do it, we are making it harder and harder for those who care about us to see the object of our changeable feelings in a favourable light.
Rachel complained to me that her mother was making life difficult because she didn’t like her boyfriend and was becoming increasingly hostile toward him… whilst nagging her to dump him. At first it seemed that we could be dealing with a clingy, over-protective mother – but I quickly sussed that Rachel had developed a habit of running to her mother and her friends every time Steve wronged her (which was often)… causing them to really dislike him! Now, I am not saying that he was a paragon of virtue, because he wasn’t; however, the traffic definitely wasn’t going just one way.
The bottom line was, Rachel had no intention of splitting up with Steve and claimed to love him. But she also felt that he was spending too much time doing things that didn’t include her; he worked too many hours and was always tired, didn’t help around the house, and just wasn’t really ‘there’ for her. She wanted him to change, and he had made an effort… but it was hit and miss, and so she spent a lot of time brooding about how frustrating and unreasonable it all felt to her. He learned how to switch off, deflect, or disappear somewhere, every time she wanted to discuss the things that were making her unhappy (the things he was doing wrong), which caused her to feel that he couldn’t possibly care about her at all… and the only way to ease the pain and the anger was to off-load it all onto those she knew for sure would listen and sympathise. Followed by Steve (suspecting that he might have made things more tricky for himself) making some conciliatory gesture, or, her feeling appeased enough to be able to carry on as ‘normal’. Until next time.
Steve strongly suspected that Rachel was complaining about him to others, which made him resentful and even more determined to dig his heels in. He began to detest her mother and avoided family gatherings wherever possible… further convincing his critics that he was nothing but a selfish s**t who was nowhere good enough for Rachel.
And wouldn’t you just love to issue the pair of them with one-way tickets to some far, far away place, and never have to hear another word about their bloody relationship again?! How tempting would that be? But here’s another question for you: have you ever, at any point, been a Rachel (I am cringing whilst typing this, because I have to admit that, yes, I have been, although the story wasn’t about me, I swear!)? And I bet you have known plenty of Rachels, and Steves. You might even become the mother, at some point in the future!
However, the truth is that we all need someone to whom we can pour out our problems and hurts, and we all want to be there for our loved ones. And some relationships are so toxic or dangerous that intervention is absolutely necessary for the safety and well-being of one or both of the people involved. We’ve all heard stories about women and men who have silently suffered abuse and violence at the hands of a psychotic partner for years, with family and friends completely in the dark. But that is not the same as two people mutually choosing to remain in a relationship, whilst consistently giving each other bad press!
It may be…
It may be that Rachel really needs to pluck up the courage to finally leave the situation that is causing her to feel more and more miserable, and it may be that Steve would be more compatible with a different woman.
It may be that Rachel is going to feel insecure and unsupported in any relationship, because she has emotional issues that cannot be fixed by an outside source; and it may be that Steve is going to struggle with emotional intimacy and closeness with any woman he gets into a relationship with, for the same reasons.
It may be that so much conflict develops between Rachel and Steve that they end up going in different directions, each bitterly blaming the other – and dragging that into the next relationship they stumble across.
It may be that Rachel and Steve eventually grow up and start to conduct their relationship as if they are two adults – not one angry little girl who is unable to deal with her own emotions, and who thinks life should be designed to make her feel happy, validated and emotionally safe, and one stubborn little boy who doesn’t see why he should compromise, or do anything he doesn’t really want to do.
It may be that Rachel and Steve both eventually come to recognise and accept that they are always going to be involved in an emotional tug-of-war whilst together, and choose to separate and move on, for both their sakes.
If you have a friend or family member who thrives on her or his tales of relationship-woe (and you haven’t yet reached the stage of avoiding them like the plague!), you might be able to encourage them to break the cycle, and reassess the situation more maturely and realistically (tread carefully though!). Or you might be able to help them to recognise that they are possibly being a little unfair on their most loyal shoulder-to-cry-on, dumping upon them more negative stuff than can comfortably be dealt with or forgotten about. Or, you could suggest to them that the bemoaning of a partner to the person who already hates their guts is never going to end well!
And if you recognise yourself within this blog… well, it isn’t the end of the world… but it may be time for change!