'Your Relationship'

Dr. Larry Cohen (856) 352-5428

"Why are you treating me this way?"

Sometimes our partners say things and act in ways that we just don’t get. Things are supposed to be this way, not that way. Why don’t they understand how things are supposed to be in a relationship?  The answer is simple: your understanding of how things are supposed to be in your relationship – your ‘normal’ – is not their ‘normal’. You must accept that their understanding of how relationships work – how to act, what to say, and how to handle things – will inevitably differ from yours. You have your ‘Guide to Relationships’, while your partner has a different ‘Guide’. Their guide not only differs from yours, but even seems to be written in another language sometimes. Why can’t they see that your way is the right way, and that their way is wrong?

Let me introduce you to your parents.

Perhaps obvious, but often overlooked, is the example your parents set, during your childhood, of how a relationship should be. If you thought everyone learned what a relationship is by watching “Leave it to Beaver” or heaven forbid “The Sopranos”, you are very much mistaken. When it comes to relationships, we learn the rules, the ways of interacting, and the ways of behaving - what a relationship is and how it works -  from our parent’s example. Your ‘normal’ is what you know, and your partner’s normal is what they know.

If you are currently in a relationship, look at your partner’s parent’s relationship. Here you will find the underpinnings of your partners ‘Guide to Relationships’. Then look at your own parents – how they interact with each other, what they say to each other, how they behave – and recognize that much of what you believe to be a normal relationship was influenced by their example. These are the cornerstones of your ‘guide’ to normal relationships. Even if you disagreed with or even hated the nature of their relationship, it was what you grew up with and was a primary example.

What Do We Do Now?

If the state of your relationship warrants, finding and working with an experienced and knowledgeable couples coach is invaluable. Whether or not you partner with a coach, the first step is to identify your relational goals. Work together to discover and outline the steps necessary to meet those goals. Issues such as conflicting relational definitions and beliefs need to be identified and discussed. Compromises will need to be made, and you may both need to accept relational ‘deal breakers’ that present themselves. You may not agree with or even understand some of your partner’s requests. The goal is to combine your 2 different relational guides into one – a relational guide that you and your partner agree to.

Commitment to change will be expected, and a couple’s coach can help you change the behaviors you agreed to change.

Rewriting the foundation upon which you and your partner have lived by is not easy and requires commitment to both the change process and to each other. Yet I have witnessed couples make incredible changes, turning dysfunctional relationships into happy, harmonious relationships. Every partnership is challenging. When difficulties arise, I strongly encourage you to examine your core beliefs about relationships, identify where you learned these beliefs, and question their usefulness in healing and strengthening your relationship. Relationships should be joyful, strong partnerships. Work together, never apart, to create a relationship you’ve dreamed of.