There are three basic blockages to communication that I see causing pain in peoples’ relationships. These patterns can interfere with enjoying your life, because you have a hard time enjoying other people's company. This might lead to loneliness and despair and make you wonder, "How do I fix difficult relationships?" These negative patterns are making assumptions, having unrealistic expectations, and shutting down. I will explain how these muck up relationships with our friends, family, and lovers. I also make a few suggestions for how you can overcome these obstacles.
Assumptions Can Lead to Difficult Relationships
Assumptions can be small, like thinking someone is going to call you rather than text and getting angry when the person texted you instead of calling. They can also be big like your lover thinks you want kids because he does and is very disappointed when he discovers that his assumption was incorrect. Clear communication on an ongoing basis is the easiest antidote for this.
There’s a silly old saying that says assumptions make an ass out of u and me. It sounds goofy but it’s true; when we think that other people see the world exactly as we see it, we’re begging for an argument or painful discovery. Assumptions give you many chances to misunderstand others and be misunderstood, leading to painful relationships.
Recognizing Expectations Can Help Fix Difficult Relationships
This leads me to unrealistic expectations, which may be largely based on unmet needs from your childhood. They can also be based on biases and lack of empathy for others. If you have difficulty imagining how others feel or seeing the world from their perspective, that is lack of empathy.
When you can only see your side of the argument and expect the other person to see things the way you do, you have an unrealistic expectation. We all experience this to some degree. The important task you face is recognizing it when it arises and self-correcting it.
Do you ever get unrealistic expectations about social media? Do you get very offended if someone doesn’t respond to you immediately, and jump to all kinds of horrible conclusions about the other person’s intent? Sadly, this could lead you to ending relationships prematurely and unnecessary arguments.
This problem can be a little trickier to solve, as you can’t always see your biases and blind spots. You might not understand that something from your past is influencing your current behavior. Therefore, it can be helpful to talk to a professional psychotherapist to learn more about your unconscious mind and what factors motivate and control your behavior. This can help you release the past influences and live more happily and realistically in the present.
Don't Give Them the Cold Shoulder
Another problematic way of interacting is shutting down. When you get overwhelmed by hurt, or you don’t know how to cope with something, you might withdraw. You might lack the skills or doubt your own ability to respond well to a situation. This makes it hard to fix a painful relationship.
Alternately, you might lose interest or decide that interacting further is not in your best interest. What does this look like? You might have a blank expression on your face, stop talking, turn the other way, avoid looking other person in the eyes or face anymore, or stop texting. Sometimes, in extreme cases, you might never talking to the other person again.
There are many reasons for shutting down communication. It’s painful to be on the receiving end of this, and it can be painful to shut down as well. It leaves the recipient of this behavior wondering what happened. Naturally, they want closure, they want to understand what happened so that they can avoid that type of interaction in the future. Sometimes it's necessary but usually you can at least have a last conversation about what went wrong.
If you are in this situation, there is not much you can do in this situation but ask for closure (not demand, not force but ask) and hope that the other person will have the courage and kindness to respond. If the other person’s response is no response, then that can be hard to take. Eventually, you must accept it so you to have the freedom to move on.
Is This Fight Worth Having a Painful Relationship?
If you are the person shutting down, it is important to learn how to communicate even when it’s difficult so that it doesn’t prematurely end or damage your relationships. It’s also important to be conscious of your effect on other human beings and to at least give the person some kind of answer when they ask for it. You don’t have to remain involved with other people when you don’t want to, but it is much more respectful to let a person know when you want to change or end the relationship.
These are just a few tips on how to fix your painful relationships. If you’d like to find out more and schedule a psychotherapy session, please call me at 661-233-6771. Thank you.