Kim feels trapped. She and her long-time boyfriend Jared have been having the same miserable argument over and over again. They can’t seem to find a solution and things are only getting worse. He insists his friendship with his ex is only that– a friendship– but Kim believes that Jared’s ex is manipulating him and using their friendship to get back together. Kim hasn’t had any reason to doubt what Jared’s motives are when he helps his ex with her taxes or fixes her bike, but she worries that eventually his ex will get her way and win him back.
Although they’ve tried, Kim and Jared can’t reach an agreement about this tricky situation. Kim wants him to set boundaries and put distance between himself and his ex and Jared refuses. He doesn’t want to be mean or burn bridges. He calls Kim jealous and obsessed by this. Kim calls him naive and fears that he’s secretly still in love with his ex.
What’s the problem you and your partner have that just won’t go away?
It might be that, like Kim and Jared, an ex is still in the picture and you two argue about how much contact is too much. It could be that you and your partner struggle with different approaches to finances, parenting or you have different sex drives. You’ve talked it out, but the divide only gets bigger and more difficult to deal with.
You worry that this relationship problem will one day lead to breakup or divorce.
Maybe you’re trying to tackle this problem in a new way. You watch and learn from other couples in your life. You read advice online or in magazines. You apply new strategies in your own relationship and hope for the best…
But it just won’t resolve.
There seems to be no end to the tension, coldness and conflict and you feel trapped. It also feels like you’re trapped in the way you usually react to this problem and your partner is trapped in his way. Nothing is working.
What you want most of all is to break free and get back to connecting and loving one another fully. You want your relationship to be enjoyable again…and it can be.
Watch your thoughts.
The very first place to start when you feel trapped in a dilemma that seems to have no solution is with your own thoughts. Your impulse may be to demand that your partner change or for you to take action in a strong and determined way to convince him or her, but this will create even more division if you don’t first tend to your thoughts.
Pay attention to the way you usually think about the problem you two are having. Notice it when you regularly think things like, “This will never get better,” “He’ll never see things my way” or “She’ll always be so stubborn.”
Your expectations about this situation can keep you in a narrow, rigid and defensive place which comes through in how you speak with your words and your body language too. When you loosen up and think more in terms of what’s possible and what you do want (including more cooperation and more connection with your partner), then you’ll communicate differently and with more openness. The likelihood that you’ll have a different– more positive– result increases.
Focus on what you CAN change.
Another habit that keeps you feeling trapped is to fixate on all of the things that you have no power to change. You can’t change the way your partner thinks or acts. You can’t alter conditions that are beyond your control.
To focus only on these things is frustrating and makes you feel like a victim with nowhere else to go.
Instead, make a shift and identify what you CAN change. You CAN change the words you use to talk about what you want and what you’re willing to do. You CAN suggest agreements that incorporate both your and your partner’s points of view. You CAN ask him or her to help you come up with a solution that will work for you both.
You CAN also look at what’s going on with a new perspective. It’s completely up to you how you approach a troubling situation and when you realize that, you’re on your way to breaking free from angst and argument and returning to love.