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Building a Happy Relationship Starts with You and not your partner

Creating a happy relationship starts with you and not your partner. Look deep inside yourself and identify exactly what YOU need to do to make things better with your partner.

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Linda: Confused. Conflicted. Mixed feelings. These are terms that are used to describe the feeling of an inner conflict between two perspectives that are at odds with each other. In some cases, the conflict shows up between two people. In others, it occurs within the experience of one person. When an inner conflict isn’t adequately addressed at the source, it will often manifest itself as a relationship problem.

The recognition that the root of an unresolved interpersonal issue may be an intrapersonal conflict can minimize or even prevent relational struggle and distress. The reason that so many couples’ arguments become entrenched and unresolved is that they are dealing with a proxy rather than facing the person with whom the real difference of opinion lies. Just as “you can never get enough of what you really don’t want”, you also can never resolve an argument with someone who does not have the authority to address the real issue. That would be yourself. If this seems a bit abstract for you, consider the example of this couple.

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Kit and Jessica dated in high school and married when they were 21 and 19, respectively. When they were each in their mid-thirties, Kit decided to go to college and get a degree. Jessica thought that that might be a good idea for her do as well, and she decided to do just that. They both enrolled in a local state college and things went fine until as they were reaching the end of the first semester and facing the pressure of final exams, tensions between them started to build and they began experiencing increasingly frequent meltdowns with each other.

Kit’s preferred way of dealing with stress is to take some downtime to cool down and relax. Jessica’s is to ramp up her efforts and buckle down. Their respective strategies ran headlong into each other. They kept repeating the same argument over and over again, each of them trying to coerce the other to join them in their style of stress management, with Jessica pushing Kit to study when she did, and Kit aggressively resisting. Kit made an effort to accommodate Jessica’s style by trying to join her in her desire for them to agree upon designated “study hours” that they both would observe together. Despite the adjustments they both made in creating this new system, tensions between them not only did not diminish, but they increased.

The more Kit tried to accommodate Jessica, the more resentment he felt because he was neglecting himself by failing to provide himself with the kind of downtime that he needed to recharge his battery. Believing that if he could just provide enough attention and time to their agreed-upon study structure, things would turn around. But they didn’t.

In fact, the frustration level for them both just increased. Jessica didn’t trust that without the pressure of their agreed-upon structure, Kit would have the self-discipline to get his studies handled and that he would end up quitting college again. Consequently, she found it hard to stop reminding Kit to stay on track. It was a classic case of gridlock. Eventually, the inevitable blow-up came when Kit let loose one day and yelled at Jessica to “get off my back!”.

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Shaken by her husband’s outburst, Jessica managed to resist the temptation to counter Kit’s anger with her own and instead responded by stating that she didn’t realize that what she was intending to be supportive to him, he was experiencing as nagging and harassment.

“Well, that’s how it feels when you’re constantly checking up on me, trying to make sure that I’m doing what you think I’m supposed to be doing. Why do we always have to do things your way? I’m sick of always trying to please you! It’s never enough!”

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Linda and Charlie Bloom
Linda Bloom, LCSW and Charlie Bloom, MSW have been trained as psychotherapists and relationship counselors and have worked with individuals, couples, groups, and organizations since 1975. They have lectured and taught at universities and learning institutes throughout the USA, including the Esalen Institute, the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, 1440 Multiversity, and many others.  They have taught seminars in many countries throughout the world. They have co-authored four books, 101 Things I Wish I Knew When I Got Married: Simple Lessons to Make Love Last, Secrets of Great Marriages: Real Truth From Real Couples About Lasting Love, Happily Ever After And 39 Other Myths About Love, and That Which Doesn't Kill Us: How One Couple Became Stronger at the Broken Places. They have been married since 1972 and are the parents of two adult children and three grandsons. Linda and Charlie live in Santa Cruz, California. Their website is
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