As a therapist, I often hear many different versions of, "If my partner/friend/family member would do more of this or less of that, I would be SO MUCH happier." Seems many of us believe the road to contentment is paved with another's intentions.
When a loved one's behavior is overtly destructive, would a change likely do everyone some good? Sure. However, when we focus exclusively on someone else's motivations or actions, we forfeit our own power to affect change. A pointed finger merely identifies the person to whom we have relinquished it.
Emotionally intense (heated) and/or familiar (repeated) arguments hold the key to identifying and resolving the childhood wounds that obstruct intimacy. The heated and repeated words we speak are usually (a) the words we needed to say at the time the wound was created (but we were too small or vulnerable to speak them), (b) what we most needed to hear from the person or people who initially hurt us, or (c) the words we are speaking about and for ourselves.
Each time we notice and respond lovingly to our words in the present moment, we move toward healing the past. Each repetitive argument is life's way of asking us to clear the obstacles that keep us from loving more freely.
Partners cannot clear these obstacles for us; we must do it ourselves. I know; I've been there.
I once struggled in a relationship with someone who did not know how to respectfully treat others. After months of fruitless pleas for him to change, I realized I was the one who was being disrespectful: of him by expecting he morph into someone he wasn't and of myself for ignoring my own words. It was I who had to change.
Over time, I came to appreciate how choosing an unhealthy relationship was a necessary part of learning to respect myself. Had I continued to direct my energy toward someone else's behavior, this lesson would have been missed entirely.
The next time you find yourself shouting something you've said more than three times, I encourage you to accept life's invitation. Listen to your words. Love yourself by respecting your own words. Your words are a testament to your strength. Your words will tell you everything you need to know.
Dr. Jill Gross is a licensed psychologist, dating coach, writer, and Associate Producer of the New Orleans-based show, Death:The Podcast. She lives and works in Seattle.
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Dr. Jill Gross is a licensed psychologist, dating coach, and writer whose therapy practice is located in the Phinney - Greenwood area of Seattle, Washington. She has been providing counseling and dating consultation services since 2000.