Monday, January 19, 2009
Conflict avoiders are just that. They are unable to talk about differences or even disappointments in the relationship. Too often these are individuals who were taught as children that anger was bad, that they always have to look at the positive side of things, or were punished for disagreeing with their parents. As a result, they have a hard time discussing problems or expressing dissatisfaction. When they marry they tend to put differences aside and resentment may build up because they don't have the verbal skills to talk about their issues and feel emotionally safe doing so.
Intimacy avoiders are unable to connect emotionally out of fear of being hurt and/or disappointed. You can imagine what their upbringing was for this to come about. The person, or couple, can fool you because often they present as good "fighters, " although that is the only way they can emotionally connect. Underneath the fighting is a fear, and most probably pain, from past relationships - the most basic being the family they grew up in. These folks are the opposite of conflict avoiders - they are constantly in conflict over the most amazingly little things. Do you know a couple like that? It makes you shake your head in bewilderment. In reality they are the "push me-pull you" of relationships - wanting closeness but pushing it away.
The answer for both of these avoiders involves taking the risk of opening up. The sooner the better. I worked with a woman several years ago who had been sexually molested as a child and she never told anyone about it. She grew up, married, had several children, but could not get close to her family. Her emotiional connection was through anger and eventually her husband had enough of it and left her. When she came to see me I was the first one she told about her 35 year old pain and fear of getting close to someone who was suppose to be a protector. She lost her marriage and her children.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Many couples get into trouble because they only superficially listen to each other. They don't express their heartfelt feelings or thoughts. This builds a repertoire of experience. After a period of time, they think they can begin to read each others thoughts and actions, and will fill in gaps with assumptions based on their past experience. The financial statement "past experience is the best predictor of future performance," is very applicable to relationships. We need to ask ourselves "what kind of experience am I giving my spouse?"
If the couple is relationally in trouble, they expect the worst from each other, because that is what was experienced in the past. We can all fall into this dilemma. In order to have a different future we need to provide a different experience now. Too often we wait for the other person to make a change, however, as Christians we need to take the plank out of our own eye before the other person can take the splinter out of their eye.