Saturday, September 17, 2011

Conflict in Relationships: Guest Post by Jimmy Henderson


By Jimmy Henderson

There are a number of reasons for conflict and breakdowns in partner to partner relationships. From my own experience, however, I believe one of the main causes to be the human ego or pure selfishness. This occurs when one of the partners entertains thoughts or beliefs that he or she has a right to do or act as they please and tends to dominate the other, resulting in a lop-sided relationship where the winner takes all. This can lead to underlying and strong feelings of resentment and eventual withdrawal on the part of the other partner, who may feel that he or she is not having his or her own needs met or that he or she is losing his or her identity or self-esteem. Couples caught up in such a downward cycle can begin to lead separate lives, lose their feelings of love and intimacy and eventually enter into what can be called an “emotional divorce”, where there is no longer any communication, sharing or interest in the other person. In extreme cases, selfishly motivated thinking and behaviour can lead to emotional or physical abuse.

Our spouse’s or partner’s NEEDS are, and should be, very important to us. I would like to briefly discuss these needs at this point.

Firstly there is the need for ACKNOWLEDGEMENT and SUPPORT. Every person has a need to feel accepted, respected or to be regarded as important, especially when he or she has committed to a relationship. The greatest gift we can give to our partners is the freedom to be themselves. We always need to uplift, encourage and empower each other to be the best we can be, always giving support and praise when it is due. This kind of support needs to be there both in good and bad times. Manipulating or controlling our partner or treating him or her as anything less than a worthy and full partner, will be destructive to his or her self-image and personality and could eventually destroy his or her health as well as our relationship. In my many years of counselling experience, I have often come across wives who even use illness in order to try and get the attention and support they deserve.

Second, all people, especially those involved in relationships, have a need for SECURITY. Part of this sense of security is to feel that we are able to trust and respect our partners insofar as their beliefs, ethics, morality and behaviour is concerned. I am sure you would agree that It would be extremely difficult to trust someone who is out partying every evening when he or she could be at home helping with the kids. The rule here is to use moderation, as going overboard, whether in drinking, partying or being away from home, will only make a concerned spouse or partner nervous and insecure and affect the relationship. Behaving irresponsibly, especially with regard to money, can put a lot of strain on a relationship. A good relationship can often weather the storms of hardship. However, financial problems can only make a bad relationship worse .

Our partners need to see that we are committed to the relationship, are willing to work at it and not merely get up and walk out when the going gets a bit tough. In relationships we become each other's teachers and the lessons are not always easy. In life, we can’t always get what we want and to selfishly expect our spouse or partner to always meet our own needs without any hard work, dedication, time, effort and degree of self-sacrifice on our part, is unreasonable and wrong.

Finally, spouses or partners have a need for INTIMACY. This includes being able to communicate and to share our feelings and thoughts with each other. From my experience, many couples are simply no longer really able to talk to each other or to say what they really feel and think in a decent way. Screaming or shouting at each other is not communication. Partners who do not take the time to at least sit quietly and listen to each other once in a while, can only expect problems with intimacy. This need for intimacy also means being willing to spend time with each other and most importantly, to actually touch or hold each other. Humans “bond” by means of the sensation of touch. Ignoring our partner or being ignored, either by avoiding communication or physical contact with our partner, is a sign of problems to come.

A well-balanced relationship is one where partners communicate reasonably well and most of all, create the space for each other to find fulfilment in themselves and in the relationship. This is done by first respecting each other, in spite of differences of outlook and opinion and having a genuine feeling of caring and concern for the well-being of the other.

If you are experiencing problems in your relationship, it may well be that you are not meeting your partner’s needs in one or more of the above areas and experiencing a reaction. Of course, being willing to acknowledge that we are having problems is the first step in correcting the relationship and being willing to give up our time and energy in doing something about it, would be the second requirement.

Seeking advice from family or friends may not always be the ideal solution, because no-one else can truly know your pain, thoughts and real situation as well as you yourself. Acting on the bad advice of someone who does not truly understand can bring more complications. It is better to seek help from properly trained and empathetic counsellors either from a church or a non-governmental organisation who are involved in community or marital counselling, or else a professional.

I hope that this information will be of benefit to those of you out there who are feeling just a little unhappy in your marriage or present relationship. And to those who have recently ended a marriage or lost a relationship, the good news is that you can love and be loved again.

Jimmy Henderson a trained trauma counsellor and regular radio talk show guest. He is the author of two self-help books entitled ‘Multi-Dimensional Thinking’ and ‘Multi-dimensional Perception’ which are available at Exclusive Books as well as his website

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