This week’s question comes from Lisa
“Dear Orna & Matthew,
A couple of years back, I attended one of your live workshops in Santa Monica (won the tickets!). At that time I had recently ended a relationship, and your workshop was very valuable and timely.
Since that time I met a wonderful man. It’s now been 9 months, and some definite issues have come up, and I’m struggling to decide whether to continue.
This person has been wonderful to me, warm-hearted and generous, has shown concern for my well-being, wants to see me succeed at my new career path, wants me around him especially when he’s with family and friends, has made me feel good about myself and has included me in all areas of his life. He’s also the first man who I’ve felt really safe around emotionally, and has been an ‘open book.’
However, he has exhibited behaviors that have caused strong reactions in me. He has a tendency to be quite critical and controlling – for example asking in a frustrated tone why I don’t drink water more slowly and making passive-aggressive comments. About 5 months ago he pretended to kick my behind while we were heading out the door, and on one occasion slapped my leg pretty hard twice, out of the blue, while we were on a road trip. He is also *very* passive-aggressive with his son – with unhealthy behaviors that he’s turned around after noticing I wasn’t happy with them.
I’ve gotten very upset with him, and he has been sensitive to my upset and hasn’t displayed some of the behaviors since (including the physical ones). He also ‘catches’ himself when he reacts in his usually reactive critical way. He has improved a lot since I’ve known him, and I can see him making conscious effort.
I had a talk with him, and asked if he was happy with the relationship. He ended up saying some pretty hurtful things.
I’m having a hard time deciding if it’s healthy for me to continue given his hurtful comments and skirting issues. His actions however show me that he cares very much about having me around. And it has been heart-warming to see his level of awareness grow.
He has shown me how wonderful things can be, and I love how much I’m growing and how secure I feel in other areas of my life because of him. But I also need directness and emotional availability.
If you could offer some insight I would greatly appreciate it.”
Of course we remember you and we are honored that you are reaching out. It sounds like you are asking us if this man is the right man for you. The truth is that only you can make that decision.
What we know is that in the beginning of a relationship things ought to be EASY. What we are not sure about is whether this relationship was easy at the start and then evolved into the 2nd stage of relationship – The Power Struggle, or if you overlooked this man’s controlling behavior and passive-aggressive ways from the start.
Susan Campbell, PhD of Getting Real Resources has identified the 5 Stages Of Relationship that we refer to often. Most people only experience the first two stages and then lather, rinse, repeat those two again and again.
The five stages are: Romance, Power Struggle, Stability, Commitment, and Co-Creation.
In the Romance Stage it’s easy to overlook certain behaviors, and once a couple enters the Power Struggle Stage it’s easy to question whether someone is “right” for us or not.
A person’s behavior informs you about who they are. How you respond to their behavior informs you about yourself.
The most important thing you can do for yourself is to speak how you feel and make requests. If your partner does his best to honor your requests, then that is really the best that you can hope for.
It seems to us that you entered the relationship without a clear idea of what you really want, and also unclear on what your deal breakers are.
When you have the crystal clear insight in knowing what drives you in relationship then identifying a match is quite easy. This is very different than navigating through the Power Struggle Stage toward co-creation.
Too often we see women selecting a partner based on chemistry/attraction, and compatibility/same hobbies. Chemistry is a non-negotiable – that desire must be there. However, what most people overlook is what actually creates longevity in relationship: A Values Match.
When two people have the same or similar Relationship Drivers that makes it possible for them to weather the conflicts that arise.
Clearly, you are interested in working on yourself because you traveled to SoCal to attend our Getting It Right This Time® live coaching workshop. So becoming a better person is important to you. Is becoming a better person important to your boyfriend?
Judging him for his behavior is a recipe for disaster; however, discovering his desire to improve himself might be the thing that the two of you bond over.
Let’s be clear here: You asked him if he was happy with your relationship, and then you felt hurt that he told you some things he was unhappy about. Certainly, he may have not communicated those things in the best way… however, you did open the door by asking, and it sounds like he did his best to be authentic and honest with you.
Are you a person who generally avoids conflict at all costs? Or are you willing to have the uncomfortable conversations that can bring you deep connection and emotional intimacy?
Conflict in relationship is the doorway to a much deeper connection. It takes BOTH people in the partnership to have the commitment to see things through to the other side of the conflict for this to occur.
Start looking at the situation from the perspective of this man’s effort. If you want to get crystal clear on what drives you in relationship and how to determine a good match for you so you can create soul-satisfying, long-lasting love we suggest that you schedule a Your Love Imprint® Session with us.
Knowing your biggest block to love would be the first step to getting out of your own way to identify a good match and create it.