Why We Hurt Our Life Partners The Most
Let’s say you’re out at a restaurant trying to enjoy a nice meal. All of sudden your partner starts going off about something, and before you know it, you’re feeling hurt and unloved. Then, just as you thought that things couldn’t get any worse, the waiter comes over, and your life partner is polite and courteous, taking into considerations the feelings of a person they don’t know.
This situation just about perfectly sums up the paradox right at the heart of our personal relationships. We supposedly love our partners, and yet we’re capable of being horrible to them in both word and deed. And yet, when it comes to people we hardly know, we’re perfectly able to be polite, civil and considerate. None of it makes any sense.
According to Deborah Richardson of Georgia Regents University, the people who know us are the people who are most likely to harm us. It’s not the people we don’t know that we should fear: it’s the people we do.Richardson says that what matters in personal relationships is whether the aggression that was shown was intentional. She says that people in personal relationships and marriages more often intend to be horrible to their spouse than people who are not in close relationships.
Resolving the problem is difficult, especially since intentions are so difficult to measure. But there is a theory out there that offers an explanation of why.
The leading theory is the idea that people in close relationships, especially spouses, convince themselves that they cannot derive relationship satisfaction in any other relationship, except the one that they are in. In other words, individuals create a sort of interpersonal monopoly, saying that the only way they could be happy is if they stick with what they’ve got.
Some people take the bait and actually believe – at least for a while – that the individual they are with is the only person who can offer them the satisfaction they are looking for. Of course, this state of affairs doesn’t last forever for some people and they contact their divorce attorney. But for many, the illusion that happiness cannot be found elsewhere persists and the relationships, abusive as it is, continues.
Richardson’s research has yielded a number of interesting conclusions. The first is that both men and women are equally prone to using indirect aggression towards their life partners. Indirect aggression includes things like gossip, destroying somebody’s favorite possession and spreading rumors. When spouses know each other’s friends, and everybody is in a close network, the gossiping is often even worse than when each partner has a separate group of friends.
According to Richardson’s research, life partners are also more likely to be on the receiving end of direct aggression when a person feels angry. Spouses don’t take out their malice on random waiters. Instead, they wait until they get home and then a shouting match ensues. Richardson proposes that people feel able to be more abusive in these relationships because they believe the underlying relationship to be strong. But, she says, much of the aggression is unconscious, and people are often genuinely confused about why they’re acting in a particular way.
So now you know why we hurt our life partners the most, it should make it easier for you to stop, think and act!