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Unlearning the Past as a Couple

New couples are fantastic! So much hope and possibility for the future. When the hope dims and possibilities appear absent, we wonder if our hope was only fantasy. To some extent, it was.

Most people have learned how to relate as a couple primarily from their folks, followed by friends’ parents, and parents in the media. We learn that our partners don’t really conform to our idea of how they should be, while thinking we are perfectly fine. We don’t know how to talk about our concerns.

Many men (and those who identify as male) don’t talk about it for a number of reasons:

  1. They are taught not to have emotions, or especially, not to recognize them and not express them, such as in “get a grip!” or “only girls are emotional, Girly”.

  2. They were taught that men just don’t need to look at a map, to ask for help, to read the instructions. “A good man can figure it out himself.”

  3. Most lasting messages were taught by negative reinforcement, Ie: a punch, a slap, a put-down when not performing as Dad or Mom might have expected.

  4. She should know what I’m thinking!

Women (and those who identify as female) too have been taught. In one large gathering, when asked if their partners talk about anything important, I think I could have powered my laptop from the wind energy of the audience shaking their heads in unison.

  1. They reported that they can not penetrate their partner’s shell to see what they know is going on with them.

  2. They learned that if they wanted their partner to stop badgering them, they just had to ask about something from their partner's past.

  3. Their questions and concerns are met with “Hey! I go to work! I do my job. When will you start doing yours?” or, “I didn’t say that, you’re remembering it wrong” or, “That’s it, I’m outta here”...and they learn not to communicate about their needs.

  4. They felt a need to keep the peace in order not to be dismissed, berated, or hit. For the good of the kids maybe.

And what about now? Once today’s couples unlearn these lessons of the past, and learn basic relational skills, what is there for them in society today? Authentic hope and promise for the future, based on realistic expectations and goals!

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