Love is Blind, and for Good Reasons

Sometimes couples get caught in a patter of criticism, hurt and shame. Criticism can be broken down into its components of judgment and demand. We judge the other as being bad or good and we demand that they be the way we want them to be. When we criticize someone for who they are rather than for what they did, we evoke a strong sense of shame in them. This strong sense of shame will encourage the other to attack back.

As this attack and attack back pattern escalates, the couple begins to lose the love they once felt for each other. Continuing to argue, their love will begin to die. As time goes on, they lose the desire to change the others behavior and begin to rely on the attacks as a method of wounding the other.

With the unwinding of the relationship, they begin to attribute the bad things that happen to the personality of their partner and the good things they do to the conditions surrounding them. For instance, the wife might say, “He is so selfish for forgetting my birthday (bad attributed to his personality); he gave me that gift later just because he had to so he didn’t look bad in front of his friends (good attributed to the situation).” When relationships get to this level of bickering, something has to be done or there is a high likelihood that this relationship will end.

Couples who have a successful relationship are forgiving of each other. They forgive the others mistakes as being due to the situation and will give each other credit for the thoughtful and loving things they do to their personality. For example, “Even though it is late, he is so sweet for giving me such a lovely gift (good attributed to his personality). He’s been working so hard lately, time just slipped him by (bad attributed to the situation).”

Doing this has a way of beginning the healing process. This is what is meant by the saying, “Love is blind.” While some people might view this as living in denial. If one wants to preserve and build their relationship, it is an essential step to take.

Calling a licensed mental health professional is a great first step to assist you in improving your communications skills and interpersonal relationships.

Dr. James E. Walton, Ph.D., LMFT is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who is on the Board of Directors at the Los Angeles Collaborative Family Law Association, has a private therapy practice in Los Angeles, a statewide lecturer and producer of the award winning Dr Walton Series. To learn more or to contact Dr. Walton, you may log onto his website at www.LAtherapist.com.

Ending Self-Justification to Improve Communication

The majority of couples who end up getting divorced experience a gradual drift away from each other over the course of their relationship. It usually comes on slowly and gradually through a pattern of blaming the other and self-justification for their actions. Each individual is so focused on what the other is doing wrong, that they are unaware of how they, themselves, have contributed to the discord that is present in their relationship.

They actually blind themselves to their part by justifying their own attitudes and ways of doing things. In doing so, they become more suborn and convinced that they are right and the other is wrong. As they go down this pathway, each individual is less and less willing to consider the others perspective. As time progresses, the couple becomes so polarized that each feels intensely self-righteous in their perspective of being right that they lose all sense of empathy for the other.

Self-justification is the culprit that blocks us from looking at our part contributing to what is going wrong in the communication. Self-justification keeps us from feeling the uncomfortable feelings that come with owning some of the responsibility for miscommunication. Most people do not like to experience those uncomfortable feelings so they will do whatever they can to avoid them. One way we avoid responsibility for those feelings is by denying that we have them. Another way we avoid responsibility for those feelings is to justify our behavior. Once we justify our behavior, we are able to tell ourselves that we are not responsible; it is the other person who is responsible and the uncomfortable feelings go quiet. In doing so, we actually lose our power over the situation because we shuffle responsibility, and control, off to the other person. In the process, we damage the relationship further and communication breaks down even more.

To improve our communication and relationships, we have to let go of self-justification. We must be willing to tolerate the uncomfortable feelings that come with recognizing the responsibility for our part of the discord. Sometimes, that means just being willing to sit with those feelings and allow them to process through us.

To challenge self-justification, ask yourself, “Is there a possibility I could be wrong?” or “Is there another way I could look at this?” Then, be willing to tolerate the possible discomfort that comes from entertaining a different perspective. You may come to see that the anger you have been receiving from the other is actually a mask that hides a tremendous amount of suffering that they have been going through.

Once you have been able to recognize some part of the responsibility in the break down of communication, making an apology for your part can go a long way to improve the communication. In doing so, you open an avenue for better communication with the other person. The discomfort will subside and give way to a more honest relationship.

Call a licensed mental health professional to assist you in improving your communications skills and interpersonal relationships.

Dr. James E. Walton, Ph.D., LMFT is on the Board of Directors at the Los Angeles Collaborative Family Law Association, a statewide lecturer and producer of the award winning Dr Walton Series. To learn more or to contact Dr. Walton, you may log onto his website at www.LAtherapist.com.