My relationship troubles began long before I ever entered into a romantic relationship. My parents were locked into a violent and abusive marriage that trained me to believe there are winners and losers – victims and perpetrators in all relationships.
Because of my training, I only knew how to submit to my partner’s wishes or to dominate the relationship. I did not know the first thing about true partnership.
I spent a lot of time afraid and sad. No matter how hard I tried it seemed nothing worked. First I would gently complain but only feel ignored. Then I might resort to tears because I knew in my heart that he really loved me and I believed he would have to change if he saw how much pain I was in. But that only made him feel manipulated. And finally I would try to reason with him. Maybe if I presented a logical case, he would agree to do things differently. But my logic only seemed to bore him.
Neither my tears nor my arguments reached him. No matter what I said, he never seemed to really get what I meant or why it was important to me. And I couldn’t understand why he didn’t seem to care about my feelings. Since reasoning, pleading, demanding, yelling, threatening and crying all led to the same disappointment and frustration, there seemed to be no solution.
It was like there was a wall between us and no matter how much we loved each other, there was no way to get through that wall.
So many nights I lay awake in bed, listening to his breathing or snoring and feeling so utterly alone. I was sure there was something wrong with me. How could I feel so alone when we were in love and lived together? He was right next to me in our bed. And yet the loneliness and emptiness were crushing.
There were times I just didn’t know how to tell him I didn’t want to make love. Instead, I would pretend to be asleep. And worst of all, after he fell asleep, sometimes I would masturbate. There was no romance left in our connection and yet I couldn’t bear to say goodbye. It was better to be in a bad relationship than to be in no relationship. Or so I thought.
I was too ashamed to admit to myself that he scared me. I liked thinking of myself as a tough girl. I didn’t cry easily and I wasn’t going to back down from anyone. But the truth was that when he raised his voice, my whole body would cringe. I often changed the topic to something I thought would soothe him in hopes that he would calm down.
And then I would get sick of avoiding hot topics just to avoid his wrath. So I would loudly and defiantly proclaim my right to free speech. And that usually led to his telling me that I was crazy and making a big deal out of nothing.
The more I focused on what he was or was not saying or doing, the more miserable I became. My sense of frustration turned into despair. When I looked at the relationships of others for solutions, I found none. It seemed like all the couples in my world were having similar problems. Although I felt closer to my girlfriends when we would get together and complain about our men, the sarcastic laughter we shared, cut into my heart even as it cemented our friendships.
There were so many nights when I lay awake agonizing over something he had said or done. Why was he so cruel? How could I get him to listen to me and understand me and stop being such a jerk?
Was this all there was? Was endlessly arguing with your partner inevitable?
Since my parents and most of my friends seemed to be suffering in the same ways I was, I came to the conclusion this was all I could expect.
I came to believe that love hurts and that is just the way it is. In fact, I thought the agony I felt was proof that I was in love. My pain became my badge of honor. And in some sick way, bonding with my friends about the “fact” that “love stinks” and men and women “can never understand each other,” made me feel part of a club which made up for how rotten my relationship was making me feel. Or so I believed.
The more I found fault with him the more miserable I became.
Pointing fingers never made me happy. It did enable me to feel justified in my anger and resentment. But what did that get me? I got to be “right.” And my girlfriends agreed that I was right and he was wrong. They confirmed that I deserved better and he was a jerk who didn’t deserve me.
But even if that were true, it still never led to anything worthwhile. Blaming a jerk only keeps you in relationship with the jerk. Finding fault is a terrible waste of energy. What I needed to do was turn my focus onto me.
I began to notice that labeling, name calling and indicting my partner’s character and motivations only made me feel worse about myself in the long run. Sure, at first I felt superior to him. But I had chosen to partner with this man so how good could I feel about myself if he was indeed the total jerk I was painting him to be?
There had to be a better way. When I label anyone, I am objectifying them and myself. This takes me away from compassion and toward blame.
Why would I prefer blame to compassion? When I’m not able to assert my boundaries, I become afraid that I might allow myself to be abused again.. I turn to blaming, resentment and name calling to shield myself from my own weakness. But those things don’t protect me. The resentment and blaming actually keep me stuck in a dysfunctional dynamic.
Growing up as a girl I was taught that as women, we are supposed to teach our men to be better men. It is such an old-fashioned and horribly patronizing worldview. And yet I have vivid memories of my grandmother, aunts and mother whispering in the kitchen while the men talked in the living room. The whispers were of how we women need to let our men think they are in charge to protect their fragile egos. But as women it is our responsibility to ensure that the men act like responsible men instead of little boys.
So although I grew up thinking of myself as a liberated and independent feminist who had little interest in marriage, when I did fall in love, I found myself perpetuating portions of this childhood training. It took the form of hoping he would change. I would see “potential” in a man and then try to “help” him fulfill his potential.
Of course this infantilizes the man and puts me in the role of mother, which is not a sexy formula to say the least. And it sets me up to be in a position of helper and teacher rather than a full partner. The partnership model was completely lacking in my early training.
But love, real love, does not stink. And men and women really CAN learn to understand each other. Through years and years of recovery, therapy and study, as well as much trial and error, I have learned several solid solutions to the major issues that plague most relationships. Today I enjoy the relationship of my dreams and it is solidly based upon the partnership model I now share with my clients.
The relationship of my dreams has plenty of opportunities for disagreement and discord. But rather than allow that to create separation or alienation, we actively work with those issues by following the 5 Steps to Exquisite Partnership. As a result our conflicts always lead to more love, more intimacy, more understanding, and more romance.
I believe we deserve to be happier than our parents and happier than our friends. And when they see how happy we are, maybe they will come to believe it is possible for them too.
I have been through more than my share of trauma, abuse and dysfunctional relationships.
I had to live through tremendous pain to get here.
The good news is that you don’t have to invest thirty years in trial and error that can often lead to devastating results before you discover how to create the relationship of your dreams. You deserve the beautiful, meaningful, joyous relationship you have always wanted. I now know what it takes to get the positive results we all crave. I want to help you to bypass the agony and start delighting in one of the most important aspects of your life – your relationship. Our relationships have a huge impact upon our health and our longevity as well as our happiness and sense of fulfillment. I want to help you ensure that you have optimized this aspect of your life fully. You deserve nothing less.
Veronica Monet, ACS, CAM is passionate about sharing her Five Steps to Exquisite Partnership with couples of all descriptions. Whether gay, lesbian, poly, straight or monogamous – all are invited to learn these simple tools for transforming conflict into deep intimacy. It even works with co-workers and neighbors! Email for your free telephone consultation to see if you are fit for her program.