You’ve been trying for so long to just get your partner to hear you.
I get it. It seems like everything you say goes in one ear and out the other. Sometimes you feel like that person laying next to you at night would rather be in a different room, maybe even in a different house. Anywhere away from you. It hurts. You feel so distant.
You don’t know quite how it happened, but somewhere along the way, something changed in your relationship. You both got stressed and busy. You lost sight of each other. You feel so disconnected. The bad days feel really, really bad. You question your relationship and you wonder why, or even how, you’re still together. The differences between you feel like they’re driving you farther apart. You get on each other’s nerves and would rather just not talk. Those days are bad.
Don’t get me wrong- not every day is terrible. You’ve tried focusing on the positive. You still have good days sometimes. Days where you get along, laugh together, maybe have a little fun. You maybe even have sex. And when it is good, you want so badly to be able to hold on to that. Those days remind you that things weren’t always this way. You used to feel appreciated, loved, and valued. You used to feel pursued.
You loved those early days of your relationship- when everything was young and fresh and new.
Date nights were exciting. You didn’t run out of things to talk about with each other. And even if you weren’t talking, the quiet was still comfortable and safe. On days you both were busy, you couldn’t wait to be back together again. You thought about each other every minute of the day. Your relationship was so, so good.
And in those good moments, you want so badly to cling to that hope. You think, “Wow, this was a good day. Maybe we are okay. We can do this. We’re fine.”
But then another argument eventually rolls around. Or maybe nothing bad even happens but you gradually drift apart again. Either way, you feel even more exhausted with your efforts.
It’s hard for you, for both of you, to get through the bad days. That cycle took over your relationship. The good days don’t last. The frustrating arguments, the hurt feelings, they come back around.
You realized you both ended up farther away from each other, and now you just can’t seem to speak through the distance between you.
It seems like a lot of effort to even get a response from your partner on busy days. You call, you text. You reach out. Radio silence. You feel so unheard.
And honestly, the more you try to make things better, the more frustrated you get. You push for date nights. You try to plan something together. You have so many ideas, but there’s not a follow-through. That book for couples? It was never read. The date nights and quality time you both agreed to? Other things eventually took priority.
Sometimes it feels like nothing about your relationship will ever change.
You’re exhausted. You’re worried. You’re stressed. You try so hard for your partner to hear you. You begin to wonder if all your attempts to fix your relationship are actually making it worse, as if you’re pushing them away. Or maybe you even think that with all your frustration, you don’t deserve to be heard. What you’re sure of, though, is that you want so badly to feel them present and with you. You need to feel appreciated again. You long to feel special. You want them to think you’re special and to be interested in you.
Now you’re at the point where you both are beginning to recognize just how far you’ve gotten from each other. But neither of you can figure out how to take a first step toward improving your relationship. It seems to still end in the same cycle you’ve been in. Arguing, shutting down, building up frustrations, and doing it all over again. Sometimes you just want to yell! (And, if we’re being honest, sometimes you do yell).
You feel like your patience is running low. So what do you do from here?
I know that as much as you’d love to “fix” your partner, you’re smart enough to know that you can’t change other people. But, you can change how you receive them and respond to them.
Stick with me here.
There’s a few steps to help get you on the right path toward repairing your relationship.
- Recognize your triggers. Let’s look at your relationship as if it’s in a cycle of responses (or lack thereof) toward each other. Think about the first thing you notice that typically leads to an argument. Maybe there was some sort of cue from your partner that got you started. Was it a look, a tone, a phrase? Did they say something in a sarcastic way? Did they not respond to one of your messages? Did you not get the answer you hoped for? Pay attention.
- Know your typical first response. Whatever that trigger was, what happened for you? Did you feel your chest tightening, your heart rate rising? Maybe your stomach churned a bit. You maybe felt angry or frustrated. This is what you have to recognize and slow down.
- Think through what you’re feeling under the anger and frustration. You were upset. But what was really going on for you? Maybe your feelings were hurt. Maybe your partner’s response pushed you into thinking that they didn’t care. Maybe you began to feel like they weren’t listening to you. What else were you feeling? Maybe fear, anxiety, or loneliness? You might have felt unloved or rejected. Those are difficult feelings to have.
- Stop yourself from responding with your typical anger. When you felt angry, what did you do? Did you argue back, yell, maybe get a little naggy? Maybe you argued about dishes or laundry. You needed to be heard. So now, take a deep breath. Acknowledge that underlying feeling you identified in step 3 and try sharing it with your partner. “I felt _____ when you _____ (what was the action that triggered you?). I don’t want to get _____ (angry?) with you. How can we connect here? What are you feeling?”
- Now for the hardest step: Listen. You’ve opened space for your partner to share how they may also need you. Just listen. And when they’re done, maybe reflect what you’ve heard. “Ok, it seems like you’re feeling upset about/concerned with ______. Am I hearing you correctly?”. This can help you get back in tune with each other.
Maybe this resonates with your experience, or maybe it doesn’t. But if you slow down and think through what usually happens, you may recognize some of those deeper feelings underneath your frustration. Some sort of anxiety or resentment that may be driving your responses.
I know recognizing this cycle and trying to work through it can feel like a lot. Your typical relationship pattern is pretty overwhelming. Remember that these 5 steps may not make everything better the first time around. It took a while for your relationship to get to the state it’s in. So it may take more than a few days to get you both on common ground. But this is a good start.
If you made it this far, I applaud you for recognizing your role in interactions and caring so deeply for your partner. Even though you both may not easily show your love for each other, it is still there, holding you together. You both can create a new pattern for yourselves, filled with understanding and connection. Your relationship is made for more than what it exists as now.
If this resonated with you, then couples therapy might also help you and your partner begin to understand each other better and connect on a deeper level. You can work through the issues that got your relationship so far off from what it used to be. You can recognize that cycle you get stuck in. Beyond that, you can actively begin to change your perspective and relate to each other in new, refreshing, and lasting ways. You can learn more about couples therapy here, or reach out today to schedule a free consultation.