When you’re the only one fighting for the relationship: the lonely partner

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A relationship should, at least in theory, have more or less equal involvement and effort from both partners. However, we know that “what it should be” is seldom the reality.

It is very common for people who really want to save their relationship or marriage to appear in my office. Partners who are definitely willing to negotiate and solve the problems with their other half, in their microcosm. However, many times after a few failed negotiation attempts and seeing themselves at risk of losing their difficult partner, they begin to simply accept inequality in the invisible (but extremely important) balance of the relationship.

The truth is that the acceptance of inequality, even though done with good intentions, will end up lowering the possibility of survival of the relationship. It is very common for resentment to grow within the person who wants to save the relationship at all costs. As much as the person tells themselves that they accept what is happening, their mind gradually keeps a tab on everything they are conceding. We can consciously accept the situation and try to rationalize it as being “for the couple’s future”, but something deep in our mind cries out for justice. And little by little, small passive-aggressive acts, small tantrums, even emotional breakdowns start to appear here and there. The smiles start to turn sour. Indifference starts to show in the lonely partner’s eyes. For a partner who never wanted to negotiate to begin with, this is usually seen as more ammunition for injustice.

The truth is that accepting everything for temporary peace is no use. You are enabling the behavior of a partner who does not see your side, and you are also slowly destroying the relationship with the (justifiable) anger that brews inside you. The partner who does not want to negotiate is even more comfortable with the situation because you have stopped fighting for balance. Thus, being silent for the sake of the relationship becomes a cycle, which only increases in toxicity. You are not enjoying the situation and clamming up to save a relationship that, without conversation, will not improve. So think ask yourself these questions: for how long are you going to be able to keep quiet? Why are you not voicing your needs? What is the real gain from all of this?

Of course, nothing prevents a partner from finally understanding you and reconciling. Sometimes it takes time and millions of baby steps, and often even couples therapy is necessary. But what about the cases that are not successful? The cases when everything possible has already been tried, but nothing has improved?

Maybe it’s time for you to ask yourself:

If there was a balance, which is exactly what you are looking for, would your partner still be interested in being with you? Are they still in the relationship because they are the person with all the benefits? And what if that’s the case? Do you want to be in a relationship with a person who doesn’t respect you?

And, if you’re in a relationship with someone who doesn’t respect you, why do you stay? Why do you stay, even though you know that nothing will improve, and that nothing will be equal in the relationship? Why do you stay, knowing that the frustration is not temporary, and that you are trying to accept injustice as a new way of life? Is there a fear of loneliness? Fear of trying again, with a new person? Or is it a pattern of unhappy relationships created throughout childhood that makes you stay, trying to change it? Of course, these questions can and should be addressed in therapy.

Remember that a healthy relationship means two people who like each other and want the best of each other. They want to bring happiness to each other. When a partner sees that you are unhappy and that the relationship is unfair but they are comfortable with the situation, is that the relationship you deserve? A one-way relationship? Where’s your value in all of this?

To schedule an online consultation:
paulamonteirocounseling@gmail.com
whatsapp: +55 (21) 99742-7750

What is a good friend?

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It seems that we all grew up with the idea that our best friends are the ones who are always present, always by our side. Maybe this is something ingrained in us since our time in school. After all, we saw our classmates every day. Some of us reach our early twenties, after college, and ask, Where have all our friends gone? Were we abandoned? Is someone not saying “good morning” everyday really a sign of a lack of affection? Does not seeing our classmates at least once a week mean the end of friendship? Also, these friends you always see on Friday for a beer, are they your real friends? If friendship could be calculated it certainly wouldn’t be a simple formula, but an equation full of variables. So in line with celebrating International Day of Friendship, I have composed a list of things for you to think about in regard to your friends.

Friends are present in good times and bad times
It is common to hear about fairweather friends. You should be careful about a friend who is only around when everything is good, but it is also important to remember the opposite isn’t desirable either. You should be careful if a friend is only present when everything is bad. There are toxic and envious people who will disappear during times of celebration. Therefore, your real friends will celebrate with you and help you through difficult times

… but that doesn’t mean all the time
Do not confuse constant presence with friendship. Someone sending good morning GIFs with a rose or kittens on a daily basis is an empty gesture when there is no substance to the friendship. Also, we all have work, studies, children, husband / wife, projects… Not being present at every single moment does not mean lack of friendship or neglect. You will recognize a true friend when, even when they are distant, they appear to support and help you when you need them.

Friends accept “no” as an answer
Your friends respect their own boundaries and they should respect yours. If someone is expecting you to accept everything they request and if you tell them “no” they stop speaking to you, this is not a healthy friendship, it is a toxic and abusive friendship. Also, you should look at yourself. Can you say “no” and receive “no” as an answer?

..and they keep their word
Remember a person is only as good as their word. Pay attention to promises (and any other types of agreements ) that are made. People who say one thing and do another are not friends. If you cannot trust someone’s word, you cannot trust this person as a whole. Lies and breaking promises in addition to being disrespectful to you are a big indication of a false or failing friendship. Beware of friends that promise a lot, and don’t follow through. It is better to have a friendship where few promises are made but kept, than
to have a friendship where promises are repeatedly broken.

Friends won’t always agree with you
Friends will call you out when you deserve it and sincerity is a priority. Someone who agrees with you no matter what you say or do is most likely just enabling behaviors that you shouldn’t have. Sometimes friends say things you don’t want to hear, but it’s for your own good. They want you to improve as a person, and that is what caring about someone means.

To schedule an online consultation:
paulamonteirocounseling@gmail.com
whatsapp: +55 (21) 99742-7750

Gaslighting

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(www.pixabay.com)

Gaslighting is an emotional manipulation technique that, when repeated multiple times, makes a person question and doubt their own sanity.  It is very common in abusive relationships – in fact, emotional abuse is far more common than we would imagine.

But where did the name come from?
Gaslight is the name of a movie written by Patrick Hamilton.  It tells a story about a marriage, where the husband tries to make his wife think that she is going crazy.  He does this with many subtle tactics, for example, turning down the gas lights (thus the name of the movie).  The wife mentions to her husband that the lights are dimmer, and he constantly denies it, making her start to question her sanity.

Phrases include:
“You’re crazy”
“I never said that”
“You’re being too sensitive”
“Is it PMS?”

A gaslighter discredits the feelings and/or memories of the victim.  Clearly, nobody remembers absolutely everything that is said, but there is a big difference between not remembering and accusing someone of having problems with memory/emotions and trying to rewrite their memory.  Gaslighting is a technique of disorientation.

These phrases, between other similarities, slowly break the self-confidence of the person suffering from gaslighting.  Other symptoms are:

-You question your own memory or emotions
-You suffer from mental confusion, including “feeling crazy”
-You see yourself always making mistakes, and are always asking forgivness from someone, but never can understand how you reacted in that way
-You can never understand how, with so many good things happening in your life, you are unhappy
-You frequently create excuses to defend your partner/parent/friend
-You are unable to make simple decisions
-You feel like you can’t do anything right
-You ask yourself if you are a good enough person

Remember that gaslighting can be done by any person, including bosses, co-workers, family members, and partners.  If you feel that you need to defend your sanity or your value from someone, it’s good to ask yourself if you are being manipulated by them.

Therapy can help you perceive the manipulation and deal with it, by changing the dynamic of the toxic relationship or cutting it out completely.

To schedule a consultation:
paulamonteirocounseling@gmail.com
+55 (21) 99742-7750

Love, Passion and Romance

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Love, Passion, and Romance

I’ve already written about how relationships and the people in them change with time, and how the small things start to seem less and less important. However, I would like to dive deeper into this topic, and explore the differences between love, passion, and romance.

When we fall in love with someone, it’s common to hear it described as “love at first sight.” It’s far more likely to have been passion at first sight; something that, with luck, can develop into love.

The ecstasy of falling in love is a feeling that we believe will last forever with the right person. However, this just isn’t true. This ecstasy doesn’t come from feelings of love, but from strong passion, the kind that comes in huge waves and can knock someone down. As amazing as the wave feels though, it will inevitably diminish. It won’t break and suddenly disappear, but it won’t stay strong forever.

Now you’re asking me: But why? Why does romance always have to diminish with time? REQUITED romance always diminishes with time, because the thrill and passion comes from the uncertainty of whether or not the romance will last, and from the relative mystery still surrounding your potential partner. Curiously, the simplest way to keep a romance eternally strong is with unrequited love, be it an idol/celebrity, or the person right next to you.

“If only the strength of the love that people feel when it’s reciprocated could be as intense and obsessive as the love that we feel when it’s not, then marriages would be truly made in heaven” – Ben Elton

Unfortunately, once we really get to know our partner, and know our love is reciprocated, the ecstasy begins to leave. We stop seeing our partner as someone to idolize or as the embodiment of perfection, and instead just see… a person. When the “hunt” ceases, and the relationship stabilizes, everything changes, even our hormones. The “wave” of dopamine falls, and opens space for oxytocin. Yes, the love hormone. The love becomes a reality instead of an idealization. Burning passion becomes a safe and comfortable place (when the relationship is healthy, of course)… but unfortunately not everyone is able to see this change as something positive, and for obvious reasons: Not only because the ecstasy of a new love is a feeling people don’t want to lose, but also because the media constantly depicts love as passion.

Let’s go back a little in time: In romanticism, how was “love” depicted? The woman was a distant, idealized object. Think of Romeo and Juliet; their relationship was adolescent love, with many barriers and no chance to truly live as a couple. Without a doubt, the story would be much different if they had married and the story had followed their marriage for ten more years.

And in today’s films and TV series? What kind of “love” do we see? Generally, it starts with a chance encounter between two people, they get to know each other, and then the films end on what? On marriage: the conclusion of this period of ecstasy, of mysteries and surprises, of insecurity, and of idealization. This leaves room for confusion about what love actually is. Instead, it instills a belief that ecstasy will endure forever, and that this ecstasy (the famous butterflies in the stomach) is a major sign of love.

So, how does this unrealistic depiction of love impact real relationships? When the ecstasy of passion dies down and true love is established and solidified, many people mistakenly believe that this means the relationship is dying, or that their partner is losing interest. It’s in this moment that the danger of cheating appears. A new person always brings more excitement (again, temporary) than an established partner, simply because they bring a new air of mystery, and create an environment of forbidden love (adultery).

In future posts, I will talk about how to bring the surprise factor back to a relationship. But even doing this isn’t a cure for the idealization of love, it’s only a guide on how to shake up the daily “routine”. The only cure is to learn how to see that romance and passion can be marvelous but ephemeral, while, with the right person, true love is just as incredible, and long lasting.

Paula Monteiro, Psychologist
paulamonteirocounseling @ gmail.com
(21) 99742-7750