the long, hard road.

So a bit of the feedback from the relationship talk:

…There were an overwhelming number of things that I found out I am doing wrong that will lead to the end of my relationship, and fewer hopeful messages about how I can actually change. It just felt like, if this is what you learned, you’ve got a long, hard road ahead of you.

This was actually an unexpected bit of feedback, though in retrospect I ought to have anticipated it. If you watch the video, you’ll find there are lots and lots of hopeful messages about how to change; nevertheless, if you were raised in an emotionally toxic home you might easily walk away from that talk feeling overwhelmed and helpless. This has at least as much to do with your lack of skill at managing those feelings (due to be being raised in an emotionally toxic home) as with the amount of change you’re confronting.

And is simply true that “if this is what you learned, you’ve got a long, hard road ahead of you.” I couldn’t have put it more succinctly myself.

Change is hard, especially when it comes to patterns of relating to other people. The foundations of that behavior were built before you could speak; they are old and entrenched and so familiar and comfortable that, like your digestive system or your skin, you barely notice they’re there until they go HORRIBLY WRONG.

Well, this seems like the right place to say what the “what you learned” things are that could result in your having that long, hard road. I’ll just introduce each, and then do a post for each one, to give it more thorough treatment.

Criticism. Of yourself, or of others, practicing unhelpful strategies for expressing your attitudes about the other person’s behavior or beliefs is one of the strongest predictors of negative outcomes. The most important rule of giving criticism is: if it’s none of your business, don’t criticize it. Addendum: Caring does not make it your business.

What makes it your business? When it directly affects you. If it IS your business, the next most important rule for giving criticism is to be as nice, gentle, kind, respectful, supportive, caring, and affectionate as possible while giving it.

Conditional Positive Regard. Believing that your own lovability is contingent upon some quality, skill, behavior, attitude, or other condition leads to pretending to be something you are not. Pretending to be something you are not results in incomplete, insincere, and otherwise essentially doomed relationships, because the other person isn’t actually in a relationship with YOU, they’re in a relationship with a part of yourself you’ve allowed them to know.

Insecure Attachment. I’ve written a variety of posts about attachment, including what attachment is, how it relates to heartbreak, and different attachment styles. Read those.

Overfunctioning. Particularly, but not exclusively, relevant to women because feminine socialization includes the dictum that your worth can be measured by the stability/longevity of your relationships, overfunctioning happens when one person in the relationship doesn’t carry an equal share of the work, and so the other person begins progressively to take over all the work. They “Make The Relationship Work” by DOING all the work.

Now, my grandmother used to say that “If each person in a relationship gives 5050, you have half a relationship! You have to give 100%.” And I believe that. But BOTH people have to give 100%. If someone starts giving 80% and then the other person gives 120% to compensate, that second person starts to get burnt out while the first person actually gets weaker and less autonomous. Overfunctioning is bad for BOTH people in the relationship.

If you learned all four things in your family of origin and you’re only just now hearing that they’re not actually functional, that in fact they predict relationship dissatisfaction and failure, then yeah. You’ve got a long, hard road ahead of you.

But surely it’s better to be on the road than it is not to know the road exists, eh?