Why are you doing this to me?
In any kind of relationship we are going to step on each other’s toes. Friendships, business partnerships, romantic, and family; It doesn’t matter the kind of relationship. When two or more people get together they are going to have different ideas, values and goals that are going to clash.
Think of your place of work. What are your goals when it comes to your job? Often they are to find value in what you do, feel accomplished at the end of the day, and make some money in the process. Are these your companie’s goals? At times your company is going to make decisions in an effort to reach their goals that are going to affect you in ways that you may not appreciate, from implementing a new policy all the way up to a reduction in force that terminates your job. The company is not doing this to you personally, they aren’t doing this to you, their actions just happen to affect you.
The same thing happen at home in closer relationships. Being able to learn the find distinction between something that our partner or friend is doing intentionally to us, and something that they are doing for themselves that happens to affect us, is important. It will change our reactions to the situation and will give us an ability to communicate our wants wishes and would likes more coherently.
The other night my husband and I had a disagreement. Because of the disagreement he went to the office for 4 hours, and astutely ignored me. It did not feel good to be ignored for 4 hours. It felt lonely and punishing. The energy in the house was tense and thick. Luckily I knew that he wasn’t ignoring me to punish me or to hurt me, he was taking space and time to calm himself down and soothe his anger and frustration with the situation. This made it much easier to be able to take time and manage my own hurt, anger and frustration with the situation (by baking cookies). If the belief had gone the other way, if I had taken his actions as a personal attack against me, the evening could have gone a very different way, with anger, resentment and escalation.
Our partners will take actions that affect us. These can be as benign as going to the gym instead of making it home in time for dinner, or deciding to go back to school to advance their career, to being lost in addiction. There are times that our partners are doing something specifically to hurt us through spite and anger. It does happen. Just as often, if not more often our partners are just trying to take care of themselves in a way that steps on our toes, even if they way they are trying to take care of themselves is unhealthy and does some extensive damage.
When we find the distinction between “they’re doing this to me”, and “they’re doing this for them and it affects me”, then we have choices to make. Then we have to figure out what we need to do to take care of ourselves. The first thing to do is to identify to yourself how your partners actions are affecting you by identifying the emotions surrounding their actions. For example, being able to identify the feelings of hurt, betrayal, dismay, fear, etc will allow you to start to put a container around your emotions. You will be able to say to yourself “I’m feeling afraid and angry right now” without necessarily blaming or acting on them. Next you can start working to soothe the feelings by either finding something to do that you enjoy, or alternative self talk. “I know I’m feeling really frustrated and scared, and I know that I will be OK. I know that he/she is isn’t trying to make me feel angry and scared on purpose.” Then you can ask yourself if there is anything that can helped by communicating these feelings to your friend or partner. If you tell them you are really scared and frustrated, will they be able to change what they are doing, or even just confirm that their actions are affecting you even if the actions can’t be changed. Often that confirmation, that recognition that their actions are having consequences elsewhere is comforting, even if they are unable to stop what they are doing. Finally, in extreme cases such as drug use and sexual infidelity, which is not about you but about the other person taking care of themselves in unhealthy ways, you have to decide if you are able to stay in the relationship. The dynamic of the decision when you have a full understanding that their actions aren’t personal, even when you have to protect yourself from the consequences of their actions, changes how you feel.
I’m not doing this to you, I’m doing this for me. In most relationships, especially when they are overall healthy, partners aren’t spitefully trying to make each other hurt, angry, scared, or feel abandoned or betrayed. If you are with a person that does such things, then there is a completely different conversation to be had. If they are taking care of themselves however, and how they take care of themselves is affecting you, move through the above steps. Let go of the personal aspect, which will help you think more clearly, and take care of yourself without acting spitefully toward them. It will help you be more at peace with your friends and partners, and more at peace with yourself.