Sometimes couples get caught in a patter of criticism, hurt and shame. Criticism can be broken down into its components of judgment and demand. We judge the other as being bad or good and we demand that they be the way we want them to be. When we criticize someone for who they are rather than for what they did, we evoke a strong sense of shame in them. This strong sense of shame will encourage the other to attack back.
As this attack and attack back pattern escalates, the couple begins to lose the love they once felt for each other. Continuing to argue, their love will begin to die. As time goes on, they lose the desire to change the others behavior and begin to rely on the attacks as a method of wounding the other.
With the unwinding of the relationship, they begin to attribute the bad things that happen to the personality of their partner and the good things they do to the conditions surrounding them. For instance, the wife might say, “He is so selfish for forgetting my birthday (bad attributed to his personality); he gave me that gift later just because he had to so he didn’t look bad in front of his friends (good attributed to the situation).” When relationships get to this level of bickering, something has to be done or there is a high likelihood that this relationship will end.
Couples who have a successful relationship are forgiving of each other. They forgive the others mistakes as being due to the situation and will give each other credit for the thoughtful and loving things they do to their personality. For example, “Even though it is late, he is so sweet for giving me such a lovely gift (good attributed to his personality). He’s been working so hard lately, time just slipped him by (bad attributed to the situation).”
Doing this has a way of beginning the healing process. This is what is meant by the saying, “Love is blind.” While some people might view this as living in denial. If one wants to preserve and build their relationship, it is an essential step to take.
Calling a licensed mental health professional is a great first step to assist you in improving your communications skills and interpersonal relationships.
Dr. James E. Walton, Ph.D., LMFT is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who is on the Board of Directors at the Los Angeles Collaborative Family Law Association as well as Family Divorce Solutions, has a private therapy practice in Los Angeles, is a statewide lecturer and producer of the award winning Dr Walton Series.