Continuing with my posts on the most frequent problems I see in relationships, today I’m going to focus on how couples tend to assume that their partner’s behaviors mean one thing (usually something negative!), when it is usually almost always a result of something else.
This issue most frequently comes up around behaviors that lead partners to feel cared about. Problems often develop in this area because, unfortunately, most couples have different things that lead them to feel loved. Some people highly value physical touch while others feel most cared for when they receive gifts while others want intimate conversation. This does mean that they do not value other things – rather, that there are certain things that lead them to feel MOST loved, and if they go for too long without receiving what they value most they will begin to feel unloved.
Related to this is that people frequently are not aware that they experience caring in different ways – so what we naturally tend to do is love our partners the way that WE like to be loved, not the way they like to be loved! This can obviously create problems over time.
For example, if you feel loved through intimate conversation you may focus on communication with your partner as a way to connect, but may not pay as much attention to the physical aspect of your relationship. If she feels most loved and connected through physical touch this can become problematic over time as she likely eventually will have difficulty noticing any loving attempts at communication. This will then come full circle to hurt you because you will feel like she is distant or uninterested in communicating with you.
So how can you break out of this type of cycle with your partner? The answer is, not surprisingly, through self awareness and clear communication:
1. Reflect on those actions, words, or behaviors that lead you to feel cared about, and why
2. Communicate those clearly and specifically to your partner (for example: “I like it when you send me a text during the day because I feel like you are thinking about me”)
3. If your partner does something unexpected or that feels UNCARING, ask him/her about it before you assume that he/she did it on purpose (for example: “when you left this morning without giving me a hug, I felt like you were mad at me. Is that true?”)
It is not unusual for individuals in long-term relationships to feel at times that their partners do not care about them, especially in the heat of the moment. There are many factors that can play into this, especially overall life stress, relationship distance, and difficulty communicating. Implementing the above steps can help tremendously in repairing some of the misunderstanding and hurt that occurs when you and your partner are stuck in a cycle of both feeling uncared for. However, if you feel you need additional support in exploring these types of issues in your relationship, therapists at the Salt Lake Relationship Center are here to help. Please contact us or click here to schedule an appointment.