Staying in Love part 3
There is no doubt about it-people can be irritating. The problem is that when we meet someone and fall in love, we tend to idealise the person and become blind to their faults. The sense of being in love is filled with excitement, optimism, joy at being chosen and the desire to be with the person who can trigger such feelings. The problem is that romantic blindness and rationalising our mate’s faults does not eliminate them-not does our partner’s idealised view of us eliminate the things that we do that undermine the relationship. We have faults. True lasting love involves being realistic about each other’s’ s faults and accepting the person anyway. But there is more. We need to avoid engaging in things that diminish our partner’s affection for us.
Dr Harley and Chapman use the metaphor of a love bank. Imagine you and your partner each have a love bank. You can make deposits into your account in your partner’s love bank by doing the things that meet his or her emotional needs (this was discussed in the last article. ) But you can also make withdrawals from the love bank by doing things that make your partner unhappy. Most relationships can survive these hurts as long as they are seen as mistakes. Usually an apology will sort things out. BUT when the behaviour becomes a habit, it is not seen as a mistake anymore and then it becomes a “love buster.” Units flow out of the love bank and an apology means very little because the irritation is constantly repeated. Some things upset your partner and it is up to you to change that. When we nurture we put ourselves last and we do what our partner needs. We try to make our partner happy. When we engage in love buster-behaviour, we do what we want and what gives us pleasure. Because love busters make us happy in the short term, we tend to rationalise our behaviour. But that does not solve the problem that a withdrawal has taken place in the love bank. If your balance goes too low, your partner will stop feeling loving towards you. When a marriage is in trouble, it is wise to work on the love busters first, because when your partner feels hostile towards you, he or she is unlikely to allow your close enough to meet his or her emotional needs.
The above authors identify the following important love busters.
• Selfish demands. These are attempts to get your mate to do something for you, usually with the implied threat of punishment if he or she refuses. Punishment may take the form of sulking, withholding affection, sex, money or anything else that leaves your mate feeling manipulated . As kids people like teachers and parents made demands on us. As adults employers make demands on us. Most of us do not like them. In a marriage, there is no place for selfish demands. They depend on power. The carry a sense of coercion and are a test of strength. So they undermine the “we perspective” that characterises the shared power of a good relationship. Threats and lectures may get what you want in the short term but they drain the love bank. It is far more productive and helpful to say “I’d love it if you would…..” and leave it at that. Your partner may or may not respond, but you have not drained the love bank.
• Disrespectful judgements. These are attempts to change the other person’s attitudes, beliefs and actions. They are your way of trying to force your way of thinking onto someone else. This is usually accompanied by lecturing, ridicule, reference to religious values or other means. These attempts are generally regarded as the height of disrespect or rejection. You come across as arrogant or self-righteous. You imply your partner has poor judgement or is a child. Now that does not mean you cannot disagree with your spouse, but you need to do so respectfully . Think of it like this. Say you were a salesman and wanted to sell a computer to the CEO of a large company . Would you look at what the client has and tell them it is a piece of junk? Not likely. You are more likely to try to understand the client’s needs and then offer a solution in a respectful way. If the client decided to keep their existing system, you would respect that and hope one day they would come round to buy a new one from you. Being respectful does not guarantee your partner will do what you want but it does ensure you won’t alienate him or her.
• Angry outbursts. Few things are as destructive in a relationship than outbursts of anger. These may take the form of verbal or physical attacks, but they are efforts to hurt the other person out of anger. Ridicule, sarcasm, physical injury, blaming , using the past or using the persons vulnerability against them are all designed to hurt and blow off steam. Anger may punish our partner, but it usually makes the punished person want to retaliate and punish you for the hurt in return. It does nothing to solve marital problems.
• Annoying habits. Annoying habits are seemingly trivial things that your mate dislikes or hates such as how you eat, or other mannerisms. They may not seem important, but they can be a repeated source of irritation. Maybe it is the way a person coughs often, or twirls his or her hair or picks his or her nose, being untidy around the house or neglecting to clean up after him or herself, leaving the towel on the bathroom floor and so on-they are just an annoyance. You may be able to shrug it off, but your partner can’t. So do not assume you can do nothing to resolve your annoying habits, even if they seem trivial to you. It is a whole lot easier if you recognise that these habits make withdrawals from the love bank. The problem belongs to you because you are the one who has to overcome it. These habits create distance between you and your partner, because your partner will want to escape from the irritation. Ask yourself are my choices bringing us closer or pushing us apart? Then work on your annoying habits.
• Dishonesty. Dishonesty embraces both direct lies and also failure to reveal correct information to your mate, leaving what you know is a false impression. Dishonesty makes huge love bank withdrawals. It also destroys the ability to understand each other and to work together. Honesty on the other hand makes us more mindful of the needs and perspective of our partner. Honesty builds trust and trustworthiness-dishonesty destroys both and undermines the foundation of intimacy. Of course, if you want your partner to be honest with you, you need to avoid angry or punitive reactions.
• Independent behaviour. This entails doing things for yourself with little concern about how your spouse will be affected. These things usually require planning like taking part in sport or other activities, spending of money etc. If you make decisions without taking your partner into consideration, you will be perceived as selfish and you will become impossible to live with. If you don’t want to give up things that affect your partner badly, you will develop a secret life that undermines your union. This is one of the key things that allows an affair to survive.
We all make millions of little choices daily. Each of these choices shapes our future. So it is vital to avoid love busters and withdrawals from the love bank. Think about the small things. Work on creating a climate where your partner wants to be with you. Use eye contact to convey a sense of togetherness. Even the choice of where you sit can say something about whether you want to be close or if you are moving apart. Practice saying good things about your partner to others. Practice seeing your partner in a positive way. Avoid boredom, even amid the routine of daily life. Avoid nagging.
Too many people strive to find the key to getting someone to love them the way they want to be loved. To achieve this they focus on trying to correct their partners faults and remake him or her into what they want the other person to be. But real love means accepting and respecting the other person and faithfully giving love . Marriage is primarily about focusing on loving the other person. Love is a power that will produce love as you learn to give it rather that straining to attract it. Learn to love in a way that makes your partner feel loved by you and work on triggering the positive feelings you desire by avoiding love busters and working on fulfilling your partners emotional needs As you relate to you partner, ask yourself “are my secret choices bringing us closer or driving us apart?” In this way you can build a relationship, piece by piece that is solid and enduring.
References :Harley WF &. Chalmers JH 1998. Surviving an Affair. Revel. Michigan.
Wheat Ed 1989. Secret choices. Zondervan . Michigan .
Compiled by DR. B.L. WADE
OLIVE BRANCH TRAUMA CENTRE
Olive Branch 37 Wordsworth Avenue Farrarmere Benoni
Tel: 072 122 4766 / 011 849-7473.
Dr Barbara Wade is an accredited member of Saaswipp (the South African Association of Social Workers in Private Practice) and practices in the field of individual and family therapy, as well as specializing in all forms of trauma