The only relationship I’ve ever seen where both people treated each other well was my Aunt Noreen and Uncle Floyd. Aunt Noreen was anxious and sometimes would get angry but Uncle Floyd was always calm, at least that’s what I saw growing up. I always wanted to be there with them and my cousins Cathy, Karen and Kevin, especially after my beloved grandma Cecelia passed away. Neither seemed to dominate or control the other. That is the closest experience I’ve had to a balanced relationship; people who looked as though they companioned each other through life until his death earlier this month.
The age-old adage that a man takes care of a woman is just that, old fashioned thinking if indeed women truly want to be equals. Some females might hide in a relationship or intend to marry for the sake of letting go of their own inner longings for the ‘safety’ of a husband and provider. When children come along sometimes those longings return and resentments might set in on which partner is doing more than another.
The divorce proceedings will bring out what the husband and wife, father and mother truly feel is their worth and value as far as the financial outcome of which partner did more; which person provided more. Resentments often start early in a relationship but rarely are addressed as lack of communication appears to be the primary source of difficulties throughout a marriage or any relationship for that matter.
So, let’s look at how men and women treat each other. Whether in a marriage, workplace scenario or family setting. Are the people in the relationship treating each other with compassion and consideration? Each person has a part in whether there is or isn’t understanding and connection.
We treat our partners, after the early dating and thrill of beginning to know each other is over, like we were raised to behave (or not behave) toward the other person. Our parents or caregivers model how to treat others and unless each person does the work necessary to do otherwise, generations of flow down to the next without knowing the consequences.
When a couple comes into my office for therapy, often times the man is less willing than the woman to open up to the vulnerability it takes to get to the tender, the underbelly of how he is struggling. If arguing was the mode of communication with our parents when they were overwhelmed and stressed, we will do the same and pass that down unless both people in counseling can get past the resentment to how they themselves are hurting. Most times the problem has less to do with blaming the other person in the relationship and more to do with how the person feels about himself or herself; which is most often times truly horrible.
How human beings treat one another, in general, remains the ‘same old, same old’ that cascades down through each succeeding generation without checks or balances. When adversity hits the life of the relationship it appears any communication the couple had thus far will not be adequate for what lies ahead. Adversity is a reality check in every person and couples’ life. Adversity: A difficult situation or condition – misfortune vs. fortune. From Latin adversus – literally “turned against” “hostile or unfavorable”. For an individual on their own or a couple, going through the experiences of adversity is the very learning center of resilience. When adversity hits and unhealthy coping is chosen as with drugs, alcohol, eating/not eating, spending, sexing or gambling, the intensity of the issues are pushed down and battles begin.
The best part appears to happen when people go through the situation, which is impacting the couple or individual, and everyone around them. Coming out on the other side of sadness and fear is where we find growth and possibly the best of how a couple can change and still remain together. If nothing changes, nothing changes. It’s true. Most people, especially men and women in a relationship, have a reaction to change that is rarely communicated to each other. Most often when issues ensue, if a couple has not gone through any work to learn how to speak to each other and listen to each other, blaming, silence and denial will rule the couple and decisions come from that place to leave each other or to remain, change and grow with each other. How people treat one another in these times of distress are where the little ones who are watching learn to do the same.
Often times couples will reach out for help from counseling to have a person who is not biased to either the man or woman’s point of view. The goal, hopefully, is to open up to a possibility of thinking and behaving differently than the person saw their parent’s act. One day at a time. Never say never. Each person must resist rescuing or blaming the other. Can a person take care of themselves in times of difficulty while caring for their significant other? There is a solution if the willingness is there for both to do whatever is necessary to grow and change.