Relationships are important to our lives and health. However, some relationships present hazards to our sanity and health in ways that are rarely talked about. In fact, it is hard to believe that the way we relate to each other in a relationship can “induce” rage, anger and reactions in the spouse to the point that it destroys the relationship. Changing these patterns requires understanding some important factors.
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It is true that opposites are attracted to each other. It is normal to find a more easy going mate paired with a more assertive and task centered person. We do this because we are able to become “mutual partners of support” where we each have different strengths that can be used in this new relationship “business venture.”
The goal of any partnership is that it is focused on how each person can bring to the “venture” special talents and strengths that can help develop the goals and plans for the “business” relationship.
Problems come when one, or both, partners have really no intention of working for the good of the partnership. When this happens in a relationship, or any business, the partnership is headed for destruction and a failure.
Why Would Anyone Want to Blow the Partnership?
Logic has very little to do with our emotions and how we function in life. Many people have “set their course of life on automatic” where they provide little, if any, guidance to their behaviors. When problems happen, the “avoiding nice person” has absolutely no awareness of why things are not working or why their partner is so upset.
What happens is that these behaviors were developed early in life in relation to how they related to their parents, and their parents related to them. These early models shape how we handle closeness, bonding, trust, interactions, and our own personal understanding of our place in the world of relationships.
Sometimes it is because we learned to withdraw from the conflicts in our childhood families because it was too painful and uncomfortable. The person becomes “psychologically deaf and unconscious” in order to spare themselves “the emotional pain.” At other times, it is because the person has been “spoiled” and made the center of attention by an overly-helpful, enabling, co-dependent, parent who made the child the most important thing in their lives.
Whatever it is, these early patterns become “unconscious habit patterns” that happen automatically without much thought until after the fact and their mate is upset and angry. Promises are made to make changes with periods of responsiveness followed by regressions to repeating the same patterns over and over again until others can’t stand it and decide to leave.
“Blowing partnerships” then become a “normal habit” that is expected and actually “enjoyed” because it brings relief, calm, and a clear reduction of depression and anxiety in the person. That is because they are “free again.” Others just don’t care about other people and only want to live life their way, refusing to let anyone influence them by sticking to their behaviors no matter what others say to them.
In many ways, these nice people never really understand what they are doing or why others are upset with them, though if they admitted it they would know it “just underneath the conscious surface.”
What Is the Intended and Desired Result?
The intended result is actually very simple and yet very hard to believe by most others. This result is to get their spouse so upset with them that they are rejected in very angry, aggressive, and upsetting ways.
The more the spouse becomes upset with them and tries to “insist” that they change, the more the person “dig in their heels and does more of the same.” During this time, the “very nice person” works hard to become “even nicer and easy going” in order to “extract sympathy” from others who wonder how they could ever put up with such an upset and angry mate.
When the separation and divorce happens, others will tell the “nice person” that they are better off without the angry spouse. Further, they are told that no one can understand how they “put up with it so long!”
The “nice person” then can feel that they “tried so hard to be understanding and helpful” but the mate was just “too difficult” and is it probably best that the relationship is over. The nice person gets many positive responses from others, themselves, and in their view of their place in the world.
These people are “passive-aggressive” by getting their anger out at others by “sweet hostility,” withdrawal, “forgetting,” “not thinking,” and avoiding dealing with conflict with the hope that they can “make their spouse handle the problems for them.”
During all this time, the “nice person” can complain that they are trying so hard to make things work because they really want the relationship to work out. The harder the mate tries, the more angry and irritable they become in their efforts to “change their spouses.” Their spouse/partner then starts to feel overwhelmed, stressed, confused, lost, anxious, depressed, angry, and generally feel like they are “losing their sanity.”
What Is Really Going On
These “avoiding” spoiled nice guys/gals are actually hoping that they can continue in their childhood roles where the world revolves around them. They have little desire to make changes in their behaviors, routines, time with “the guys/gals,” and continuing to play when, how, and for how long they want. Relating skills are non-existent and the person has little knowledge of how to handle real relationships and the normal conflicts that happen in “real” relationships.
There is also the “pay-off” of attention from others who wonder why such a nice person would have had to put up with such a difficult mate. The person does not have to change and they can “go on” and live their life without having to “give in” to others and their insistence that they be part of a real relationship that takes time away from the “fun things” in life.
Nice people just want to be taken care of without any effort on their part. At the same time they are fearful of real relationships, or even participating in relationships to any extent. They stubbornly hold to their “patterns of behaviors” which tells more about their motives than any of their worlds. Change is very difficult in such situations unless the person comes to understand that they are going to have to change many issues over an extended period of time.
The promises to be nice once or twice will never be enough. Real efforts requires long-term commitments to change rather than “approach-avoidance” approaches. The “victim roles” have to end. They have to get out of being the ones yelled at because of their behaviors.
They will frequently agree with a plan of action in front of therapists, ministers, friends and others, only to later change what they have agreed to. This passive-aggressive “crazy-making” way of relating also has to be given up in favor of making real and lasting changes that others do not have remind them about!
Nice people periodically get angry at their spouses to keep them “off balance” and upset enough that the “tension continues.” These blow-ups are followed by periods of calm and being very nice only to be followed again by more confusing behaviors designed to “induce angry responses from their mates.” The person handles anxiety by withdrawal, avoidance, helplessness, and becoming “nicer” so that others will comfort and “like them.”
The question is not who is right or wrong. The “wars have to stop” and the couple has to make a commitment to work together as equal partners with different skills and abilities. The couple has to commit to “doing things together” and withdrawal and avoidance into activities with friends, T.V., and other types of play have to stop. All efforts have to be directed at “making the partnership of the relationship work” no matter how long it takes.
This requires making basic personality and behavioral changes while letting go of the “nice guy/gal” image and the desires to get sympathy from others for having to put up with such a difficult and irrational partner. Sometimes it is too late for change. At other times, the other one is too angry to agree to work on it any further. The only hope then is the future as one starts to work on the present ways of relating.
Sometimes the nice person has “chosen a difficult spouse” in order to insure that this type of interaction will happen. As a result, there is “some truth” to the issues of the “angry spouse personality.”