What happens when you are haunted by the feeling that you have a wrong person for your partner?How do you go about it? Do you leave?
In the last topic, Choosing your conjugal partner, of our series: Couples’ Corner, we looked at some motivational criteria which influence the choice of the partner for both men and women. However, even when you have clear criteria there is no guarantee that you will have the partner of your dream, that is, the one who has all the qualities we want to see in a partner. So, by compromising on certain qualities, you enter a relationship with a person even though some qualities may be lacking. We mentioned also that compromised qualities may prove to be a source of conflicts later in the relationship. You live under tension of trying to compensate what’s lacking, by looking for satisfaction elsewhere. Besides, it may also be a case of disillusionment, as we saw in When You Fall in love, when you realise that the person you chose for your partner is actually not angelic as you thought. On facing such disconcerting truth, you may begin to have doubts about the future of the relationship with your partner.
Do I have a right mate?
At a certain point, as Rebecca Webber observes, you begin to have second thoughts about your relationship: you wonder “whether your partner is the right one for you”. When you begin to think like that often you paint yourself as a good partner who’s making efforts in the relationship, but you feel your efforts are fruitless because you have a wrong partner. So, you convince yourself that it’s your partner who must change for your relationship to work. In such circumstance, you see only your goodness and nothing of what you need to change -it’s the other, the bad one, who must change.
In fact, both of you, as partners, are responsible for the state of your relationship. So, each ought to answer the following questions: what am I doing for our relationship? Is my action or reaction helping to improve or worsen the situation? In posing oneself such introspective questions, you no longer focus on what the other must do, but rather, on your role that is making your relationship to work or to fail. In so doing, you begin to take responsibility.
I would say, when you begin to ask yourself questions whether your partner is the right one for you, it’s a sign that the attraction between you begins to dwindle. The consolation, however, is that having such sentiments doesn’t necessarily mean you actually have a wrong partner. But it may be a good indication that there are unfulfilled needs for which you must take courage to face them. And there’s a mature way of handling them.
Choosing the relationship in the midst of frustrations
You may be feeling frustrated, but the responsible way of dealing with frustrations is not by blaming others. Frustrations are red lights signalling that there’s something here that needs attention. Hence, it’s an occasion, first, to learn about yourself. Then, secondly, you can work out with your partner, without blaming or accusing them, how you can respond to those needs. And that is possible without necessarily having a perfect partner.
In any case, a perfect partner you will never have one. Check it out, probably you are demanding perfection from an imperfect partner. “We all fall in love,” remarks Terrence Real, a family therapist, “with people we think will deliver us from life’s wounds but who wind up knowing how to rub against us.” Well, whatever the case, it’s with an imperfect partner that you ought to work your relationship out the way you want it to be. You need, especially, to learn to love your partner, and have interest in your relationship despite the diminishing love passion. Love is not just infatuation; the will must be involved if you want your love relationship to survive the storms of life.
Infatuation is volatile
Experts in love relationship speak of the duration of infatuation from nine months to four years. It’s the time, as we saw in When You Fall in love, when partners have tendency to not only idealise the other but also to amplify their compatibility; they practically don’t see the differences. If they do, they minimise them. Later, after recovering from love intoxication, you come to see things clearer and more realistically. Then, the differences come to the fore. Such disillusionment can be distressing, leading even to another extreme: from seeing everything as rosy, when you fell in love, to seeing negatives only, when infatuation begins to wane. So, you hurry to conclude that you got a wrong person for a partner. You heap on them all the miseries of your relationship. You may end up seeking happiness outside your relationship, with someone else -in form extra-conjugal affair.
When you demonise your partner
As the expression goes, a sad one indeed, call him a dog and thereafter do with him the way you want. You begin by dehumanising someone in order to justify the way you want to treat them. It may happen in a couple too. It’s enough to demonise your partner to give yourself a leeway to treat them the way you like. That’s why I find quite pertinent the observation of Christine Meinecke, a clinical psychologist: “Rather than look at the other person, you need to look at yourself and ask, why am I suddenly so unhappy and what do I need to do?” If you are honest enough you may come to appreciate, and to your surprise, that it’s not your partner alone who’s at fault. In a mature relationship, adds Meinecke, “we do not look to our partner to provide our happiness and we don’t blame them for our unhappiness. We take responsibility for the expectations that we carry, for our own negative emotional reactions, for our own insecurities, and for our own dark moods.” As no one will get all their needs met in their relationship, advise William Doherty, professor of psychology and marriage and family therapist, the way out is to accept the person you have chosen and the one who has chosen you.
Mutual displeasing behaviours
It’s good to remember that what you may find as displeasing behaviour in the partner may be just their reaction to what they find displeasing in you. In the end, you are caught in a kind of vicious circle of displeasing each other. That’s why it may not be right to single out one person as source of the problem in the relationship; it’s a collective responsibility. Then, the fundamental question, as Doherty proposes, is: “In what ways are we failing to make one another happy?”
Check out the second part in the next post.
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