163: What To Do When You Question "Is My Partner Really With Me?"
LISTENER’S QUESTIONS: Listener: …“I’m having a few issues in my relationship with my boyfriend. He just can’t seem to stop messaging his Exes (two of them) he knows I am very uncomfortable with it, we’ve broken up a few times due to this. but I’m starting to think maybe I’m the issue and not him, and I don’t know what to do. we just recently got back together again and he is doing again, maybe it’s my insecurities, maybe I should break up with him, maybe I should trust him…I’m stuck on “does he not care” “does he just not love me” “should I break up with him”… Listener: …”However, I didn’t learn about it until several hours later when he “suddenly remembered” and said that that was happening “tomorrow night.” When I asked him why this was the first I heard of it, he said, “I didn’t think of it.” First, I was mad that this was the first I was hearing about it, when I’ve explained that we need to discuss in advance things that are going to affect “us” or our time together. Second, I was mad that I had just said that I wanted us to do something and it sounded like he’s planning on going to this going away party. I felt like he wasn’t making us the priority. He then made it worse by saying that he didn’t choose which he wanted to do yet, somehow thinking by not choosing the party it was okay, when in reality, either way, he wasn’t choosing “us.””… (Please listen to the podcast episode or read the transcript to hear explanations, stories and examples.) 4 (OF 8) QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER: Question #1: Is your partner conflict avoidant? If your partner is conflict avoidant, their behavior may look similar to someone who is not invested or committed (i.e. they turn away or even dismiss the value of the relationship at times). Consider asking your partner “What helps you feel safe when we are having a conflict?” You may have a difficult time knowing what is going on underneath. For example: Shutdown can be pain. Distancing can be fear. By shifting the focus to creating safety with your partner, you are then addressing the real concern. If safety is not the issue, then you will be able to see the other issues more clearly. Question #2: Are you clear about your desires, wishes, and longings? Often, we think we are being clear, but we are actually talking about what we do not want or talking around the issue… hoping our partner will get the picture. Or we complain and criticize. None of which helps your partner understand clearly what you need. If you struggle with engaging in critical behavior, check out this article “17 WAYS TO SHIFT CRITICISM TO MAINTAIN A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP” or podcast “ERP 039: HOW TO SHIFT CRITICISM INTO POWERFUL COMMUNICATION” or Shifting Criticism Into Connected Communication course. Question #3: Do you pursue? Do you have a tendency to be more attentive to the connection with your significant other, possibly monitoring interactions or tracking your partner’s response at times? Do you ask questions and initiate resolving concerns more than your partner? The pursuing-distancing dynamic can be tricky because the more avoidant person will often be more focused on the pursuing behavior than what their partner is actually communicating, and they end up reacting to the pursuing approach. In the end, both partners are reacting to each other. Try to slow down. Focus on “playing catch.” Work to be clear and reveal your needs and desires. Question #4: Do you react? Do you at times attack, blame or criticize in an attempt to get your partner to engage? If you are reacting, you are likely (and naturally) feeling some level of threat. For example, your partner matters to you, but you feel a disconnect. It is scary. You may wonder “Are they still with me? Do they still love me? Are we still connected?” This is a deeply vulnerable experience. Find a way to calm your nervous system. Then, do your best to create a safe space with your partner, so that you can express your feelings or need in a more balanced way. If you react or tear into them, they will have a very difficult time hearing what is really going on for you. They will be too busy defending against your reaction. Stay tuned for the next episode for the next 4 questions to address the experience of feeling like your partner is not fully with you. MENTIONED: ERP 161: HOW TO SOOTHE ANXIETY IN RELATIONSHIP (podcast) 17 WAYS TO SHIFT CRITICISM TO MAINTAIN A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP (article) ERP 039: HOW TO SHIFT CRITICISM INTO POWERFUL COMMUNICATION (podcast) ERP 115: HOW TO DEVELOP THE STRENGTH OF VULNERABILITY – PART TWO (podcast) ERP 114: HOW TO DEVELOP THE STRENGTH OF VULNERABILITY (podcast) Shifting Criticism Into Connected Communication (course) Photo by André Bandarra on Unsplash TRANSCRIPT: Click on this link to access the transcript for this episode: If you have a topic you would like me to discuss, please reach out to me. Here is my contact information. Thank you so much for your interest in improving your relationship. I would really appreciate your honest rating and review. Please leave a review by clicking here. Thank you! ❤ If you are interested in developing new skills to overcome relationship challenges, please consider taking the Connected Couple Program or engaging in relationship coaching work with me.