Alright. So this is for my ex boyfriend, who is unlikely to take my advice and is more likely to feel personally attacked. I feel that it is my responsibility to him to write it anyway, and perhaps others will benefit from it despite him.
How to Fuck Up Less in Relationships
#1 Trust your partner.
Run of the mill emotional abuse is perpetuated by otherwise healthy individuals on the reg. A person need not be mentally ill or normally abusive to become the aggressor in his relationship, plain ol insecurity will do.
Her friends don’t like you and they make it known, so you ask her to stop hanging out with them, fearing the impact their opinion might have on your relationship.
He’s been coming home a little late, says someone just quit and everyone’s struggling to pick up the slack. He’s a little distant though, could be the fatigue, might be something else. So you wait until he falls asleep, early by the way, “Is he avoiding me?” and you stay up til 2 a.m. going through his phone. You sleep fitfully and wake up before him to start the coffee, you make him a cup cuz you’re trying to play it cool. Then out of nowhere you get all scaly and green and your veins pop out of your forehead. “Who the hell is Becky, you slut?”
In both cases, you have emotionally abused your partner, by definition. Happens all the damn time. It feels, and perhaps sometimes is, justified when you do it, and we all understand. You’re not yet abusive per se, but a level of distrust that makes these aggressions commonplace can absolutely make you become abusive to your partner.
Chronic abusers typically have an underlying pathology that makes them feel the same sort of fear that we all feel situationally, all of the time. To these I say: It is going to take a lot of effort at first, but refuse to act on your suspicions. I have not completely mastered this yet, but I am a recovering toxic person, so in case it might help you, here’s how it goes down in my brain:
First, something that I see or hear twists my intestines up a bit and I’m knocked out of the present moment by a pang of anxiety. I start to descend into rumination, “Why did he say it like that?” “Is he turned off by my outfit? Am I gaining weight? I do look like hell today. How could he love me this way?” You know, I get a little crazy.
So I pull back a little, not ideal for your partner, who may not understand if they notice, but better than letting all that shit come out. I try to be subtle, “I’m tired is all,” and it typically goes over well, thank God, because good luck explaining that.
Withdrawing a little helps me feel safe, it mitigates the vulnerability that I’m feeling with a show of independence. No matter what, I’ll be alright.
I find my peace in my aloneness and I try to put the triggering phenomenon into context. Usually, it will be a singular abnormality in an otherwise affectionate display and by the end of ten minutes to an hour, I’m able to let it go without a word and cautiously accept or initiate loving contact.
I get that it’s hard, I understand that it feels real. I also know that with some practice and a trustworthy partner, eventually refusing to act on unfounded impulses decreases their rate of occurrence. Acting better genuinely makes you feel better in just a short amount of time. It is worth the effort.
#2. Let that shit go.
It is an unfortunate fact in every human relationship that eventually, someone is gonna get hurt. If your partner is willing to hear you out and make small changes in their behavior to accomodate your feelings, then once the alterations are started, shut the fuck up. Your goal is accomplished, assuming your goal was a resolution and not merely to make your partner feel like shit.
Occasionally, you will decide to forgive something which caused you considerable pain. First of all, if you’re the forgiven partner, be prepared to help your other half move through something like the stages of grief. Real remorse does so gratefully, taking full responsibility for the mistake and savoring the second chance. Anything less makes you an asshole, you should show some respect for the other person and leave.
If you’re the wronged party, don’t ever attempt this degree of forgiveness in the absence of a full confession and a genuine show of remorse. You’re setting yourself up to be hurt even more and potentially to be degraded in character by your unavoidable response.
When you do go for it, understand that your grief can’t last forever. Eventually, you must enter the phase of acceptance. To perpetually badger anyone about mistakes they have made in the past can become abusive or pave the way for abuse. You decided to stay, now let that shit go. If you can’t do that, leave.
#3. Watch yer mouth.
Another unavoidable occurance in all relationships is the argument. When two lives become intertwined, the two resident minds will often have differing ideas about the way their shared life should go. These conflicts can be big, say choosing which city to move to or in which religion to raise their children. They can be small, like, “Why the hell can’t you just put your clothes in the basket, for goodness sake?” They can be petty, as in the previous case, or they can be serious, as when one partner consistently harms the other in some way.
The point of an argument is to arrive at a solution which respects the needs of everyone involved without violating anyone else’s liberties. Sometimes, someone will flat out lose, so hopefully life with this person in general is more important to you than any of it’s particulars. Other times, a compromise will be necessary. This means that you get some and you give some. You should be getting those elements of your desired solution that are essential to your happiness, and you should be giving up nothing that you absolutely need.
To compromise does not mean that you accept the unacceptable. Say, for example, Mr. Green has a pornography addiction and spends his evening hours blowing money at the strip club. Mrs. Green has been aware of this for some time, but a recent setback in her career has her feeling a bit less confident lately, and she’s starting to doubt his devotion.
The mister feels blind-sided when she brings it up. What difference does that even make? “Is this because of what’s going on at work? I’m not doing anything with these women, don’t take your incompetence out on me.”
Uh-oh. Now the Mrs. feels alone in her initial struggle and has more reason to question her husband, so willing was he to throw her under the bus for some for the pleasure of peering at mannequins.
The resolution at which they eventually must arrive cannot be that nothing changes. It does not matter that wifey never brought it up before, “I’ve never really been okay with it, I just didn’t want to argue with you,” she’ll say, and trust me, that’s the truth. A problem has not been created, it has been exposed.
What she is willing to tolerate is up to her, but if she takes the position that both porn and strippers constitute a form of infidelity, then both have gotta go. Compromise doesn’t mean that we accept the unacceptable.
To an extent, Mr. Green has a need represented in his choice of entertainment, namely the need for sexual release. As with all addictions, his excessive use of the stimulant distorts the healthy natural impulse and he may experience something like withdrawal going forward. This discomfort is not a point in his favor for a different solution, his liberties are not violated by the removal of toxic things. However, Mrs. Green must be cognizant of the fact that sex is a real necessity for her husband, and she should start to tap in to her own repressed reservoir of lust. Shit’s about to get freaky.
Mr. Green will have to learn how to discern need from greed. He will have to expend a little energy on self-control and put a little more effort into desiring his wife, but that’s committment guys. As with all other things, if you can’t do that, leave.
Two notes of caution before we move on: One, toxic people will ask for more than their share, as in the first example of, “Can you just not hang out with those friends,” or as when they make excessive demands on your time, energy, or resources. The rule of compromise does not apply to toxic people. Your answer should simply be no.
Two: if the point of an argument is a solution, why the hell are you fighting like the point is to inflict the most pain? We get it, when your love interest is points out some way in which you have failed him or her, it hurts. The truth hurts. But they have not hurt you on purpose, and in fact, you have probably been hurting them for a while already. If you care about them, be of sound enough mind to listen and watch yer fucking mouth.
4. I’ll finish this shit later.