I used to think that punishing bad behaviour in relationships was the only way to teach the other person what was acceptable versus what was not. That’s how I was raised. I always had a good understanding of the action equals consequence theory, it was used by my parents in both a positive and negative way my entire life. Although it seems fair in a child-parent relationship, over the years I have learned it’s a horrible habit in a partner-partner relationship.
When a boyfriend would make me upset, I always thought that in order to prevent it from happening again he should be punished. I would do the silent treatment, the cold shoulder, hold a grudge or bring it up in fights to use against him. My theory was that simple: make him miserable and he will learn not to act that way again.
It has literally taken me years to look at that and realize, wtf was I thinking. That’s not love, that’s not support, that’s not understanding nor the type of relationship I ever want to have again. It also creates resentment, defensiveness and the ever dreaded baggage. I can’t remember the exact ‘Aha’ moment where I realized this, but it’s so clear in my head now how backwards that all was.
My life is so much simpler now that I’ve found a better strategy towards conflict. I’m not sure how things shifted, but I suspect for the first time I truly, unconditionally love the man I am with.
When something happens between us that I find hurtful, I no longer explode with anger. I don’t sit and cry either to make him feel guilty. I calmly try and explain how his actions made me feel and we have a real, meaningful conversation about it. I want him to understand how I feel, but my intention is not to make him feel bad or guilty. I realize we are both human, we both make mistakes, and we are both used to being single; so considering someone else’s feelings doesn’t always come to mind right away. I know that he loves me, and truly would never do anything intentionally to hurt me. It just doesn’t seem fair to punish him for something he was not aware of.
I’ve realized that this not only saves time, prevents fighting, and brings us closer together, it’s insanely effective. It makes him see me as a partner and doesn’t put him on the defense. It’s so nice to know that no matter what happens, there will be no yelling, no screaming, no cheap shots… just hugs, love and understanding. And maybe it’s a sign I’ve finally found my ‘one.’