The Getting Real practices help us free ourselves from the fears and limited thinking of the ego-mind, so we can meet each new moment with our open, authentic, loving presence.
Your Relationship Blind Spots: Are You Guilty of These Relationship-destroying Habits?
We all have blind spots in our personalities that profoundly affect our intimate relationships. By that I mean: we have ways of focusing our attention and interpreting our experience that are biased due to our innate temperament, our childhood conditioning, and our sub-cluture. I may be biased toward imagining “what could go wrong if I say this to my partner.” Or I might have an automatic tendency to think I am about to be rejected or abandoned; or that my partner is blaming or criticizing me…..or putting me down….or not making me a priority. If any of these things sound familiar, then at least you are self-aware enough to recognize the territory I am talking about here.
There are many paths to awakening from your personality-driven illusions, but I think the path of intimate relating is the quickest. I have found that it is very hard to see my blind spots when I am single and not too interdependent with anyone. When I am in an interdependent intimate relationship, however, I get to experience the painful or frustrating results of my blind spots. In a close relationship, I can’t avoid seeing how the strategies I typically use to avoid emotional pain and frustration do not work. My personality “control patterns” (such as explaining why I did something so my partner won’t be angry with me) only make things worse. Such well-intentioned relationship habits do not help my partner feel closer with me. And over time, these habits may destroy the trust between us if not addressed.
All of my books address this issue in one way or another. Getting Real helps the reader notice: When am I communicating to relate my present felt experience (such as fear or hurt), and when am I communicating to control or manage the reaction I might get? Saying What’s Real helps the reader develop an awareness of those sensitive spots on your ego known as “triggers.” Truth in Dating shows how to take responsibility for the fact that some type of unprocessed emotional pain is at the root of your blind spots and insecurities. And Five-Minute Relationship Repair offers tools for repairing rifts in connection and restoring trust after a triggering event.
For this blog, I have put together a list of some of the most common relationship-destroying habits that I see in my couples counseling practice and in my own and my friends’ relationships. Look down this list and note which of these seem familiar. Which of these might possibly be things you do or have done? Which have been done to you by an intimate partner? It’s often easier to see things that are done by the other person than to see ourselves. That’s because they truly are blind spots. We need the other person’s help to see these tendencies in ourselves—even if this “help” doesn’t always feel good!
So here is my list of some common relationship-destroying habits:
1. Feeling hurt, disappointment, or anger about something your partner did, but instead of feeling your feelings, you make up a story about the other’s motives. This keeps you feeling in control, in a sense, because your story puts you in the position of judging or assessing the other rather than in the more vulnerable position of simply feeling what you feel. I recommend feeling what you feel, offering empathy and tenderness to yourself, and then clearing the air with your partner– letting him or her know what you felt, without blaming him for what you felt, and then asking for what you want in order to feel safe and connected again.
2. Giving up on asking for what you want. You ask for a certain type of attention from your partner, maybe even on a few different occasions, and your partner doesn’t give you what you want. So you (automatically, but mistakenly) conclude that he or she is not willing or able to give you this. And you give up. I recommend a couple things here: first, recognize that “giving up” or assuming you won’t get your needs met may be a self-protective habit designed to avoid feeling rejected or insignificant. The tools in my books offer help in recognizing such habits in yourself. Then, use the “revising” truth skill (from Getting Real): (1) confessing to your partner that you were on automatic last night, automatically protecting yourself and assuming s/he would not want to have sex (as an example); and (2) revealing that if you had been more aware of your real feelings you would have asked if s/he would like to make love—even at the risk of hearing No; (3) then asking for a hug or some other form of reassurance that you are loved or accepted.
3. Resenting your partner for asking, instead of just saying No. I know it’s not easy to say No when your partner asks for some type of time or help or attention and you feel unavailable to give this. Sometimes you might find yourself internally criticizing him or her for being too needy – when the fact is, you are free to say something like, “Gosh, I don’t’ have the bandwidth to do that right now,” or “I’m sorry honey, but my attention is on this other thing right now.” If you do not allow yourself the freedom to sometimes refuse a request, you could find yourself avoiding the relationship—for example, staying away from home so you can feel “free.” If you believe you need to go somewhere in order to feel free, this is obviously one of your blind spots.
I hope you can see from these few examples how easy it is to think one thing is true when actually this thing you think to be true is simply an ego-protective control pattern—and one you are blind to, until you begin to recognize a pattern.
I encourage you to get really interested in and curious about uncovering your blind spots. When you find yourself thinking, “I’ve been here before…this is a familiar painful or frustrating situation….why am I back in this situation again?” this means there’s a relationship blind spot under there somewhere. But don’t be in a hurry to name or label your pattern. The tendency to get on top of emotionally uncomfortable situations with facile interpretations can be strong (another blind spot). Instead, take an attitude of open-minded discovery—slowing down and looking inward anytime you experience any type of emotional discomfort. Feeling and “being with” your present felt experience (rather than labeling or explaining your experience) will offer a picture of reality that is more trustworthy.
What Happens in Couples Counseling?
Mostly, what happens in couples work is learning how to communicate in ways that are more vulnerable and less control-oriented. This creates a feeling of safety that allows for deeper intimacy and truth-telling. Couples learn to take responsibility for their own triggers and fear-stories; and to notice when they are using various automatic, unconscious ways of communicating. I call these automatic habits Control Patterns. Most people get excited and feel more empowered once they see and accept how much of their behavior is automatic. This frees them to be more spontaneous, vulnerable, funny, and real.
If you’re curious to learn more about what happens in couples counseling, get John Grey’s and my book, Five-Minute Relationship Repair. Some say this book is a complete self-guided healing and intimacy course for couples.
Getting Real: The Power of Conscious Communication
A weekend workshop with Susan Campbell (in-person, meeting outdoors, sitting 6 feet apart)
September 12-13, 2020 10am-5pm both days
“You can only be as honest as you are self-aware.”
GETTING REAL teaches 10 truth skills that make you a more present, aware, spontaneous, delightful communicator. Most people have fears and insecurities which interfere with being fully present and honest.
These insecurities can be healed. If you learn to put your attention on your here-now experience, rather than trying to control the outcome of your communications, you discover the real source of personal power, love, and inner security.
In this workshop, you will learn how to:
• communicate with presence, authenticity, and spontaneity
• be more sensitive to the cues you are getting from others
• be aware of how you impact others
• clear up unfinished business and unhealed wounds from the past
• repair rifts in trust and connection after a fight or misunderstanding
• keep your present relationships free of accumulated unfinished business
• come back to being present after your fear-buttons have gotten pushed
• communicate from the deepest parts of yourself—so you feel truly heard and accepted
• notice and free yourself of all the ways you “go on automatic” as you communicate or listen
• replace these “control patterns” with honest, spontaneous self-expression
• recognize all the various disguises that mask the “need to control”
• ask for what you want without being controlling
• say “no” or mark your boundaries with compassion and sensitivity
• embrace and value the silences in human communication
• heal past trauma and unprocessed pain
• communicate about difficult topics in ways that foster deep intimacy and trust
The workshop is intended for people who want to join with like-minded others to explore honesty as a spiritual awareness practice, getting to the essential self that is beyond conditioned fears, beliefs, and control patterns. Emphasis will be on developing communication skills and relationship practices that you can take home and integrate into your daily life.
We will be meeting out of doors on my patio–sitting 6 feet apart.
Location: Sebastopol, CA, one hour north of San Francisco (directions to follow registration)
REGISTER NOW: Call (707) 829-3646 or email: email@example.com
Led by: Psychologist Susan Campbell, a relationship coach for 45 years. A former professor at the University of Massachusetts, she is author of 11 books on relationships and communication. Her website is www.susancampbell.com
Six-session Honesty Salon in Webinar Format
This fall I will offer a six-session Honesty Salon in webinar format. I plan to do it 6 consecutive Thursdays, 4-5pm Pacific time, beginning Sept 24. Cost is $200 for the 6 sessions. An Honesty Salon is a small group experience where we practice the 10 Truth Skills with one another, sharing whatever arises in the present moment. We use a set of simple, but profound, communication guidelines that assist us in un-hooking from identification with mind chatter and being innocently open to whatever arises.
To register, email me at drsusan@susancampbell
If you are interested in this offering, and the Thursday time is not convenient, I may be able to change the time slot. So please contact me about that at the email address above.
Free Monthly Group Coaching Call, July 7
I will be hosting my free Getting Real group coaching call Tuesday, July 7, 4-5pm Pacific time. We use a telephone conference line. To get on the conference line from the US or Canada call (712) 770-4010 and then enter pin number 781976 (plus #).
On this month’s call, I will respond to everyone’s questions re problems you encounter in your relationships—whether they be in marriage, dating, work, friendship, or child rearing. As I address your questions, I will also invite sharing from the group regarding your best practices for dealing with relationship problems. These calls always involve lively discussion and deep sharing. I hope you will join in.
To call in from the UK, dial: 44-330-998-1227 (local access number)
To call in from Germany, dial: 49-209-8829-4402 (local access number)
From France: 33-1-7890-0674
From Australia: 61-2-8077-0511
To find other local access numbers outside the US, contact www.freeconferencecallHD.com
If you miss the call and would like to access the recording, call (712) 770-4019 and then enter pin number 781976 (plus #).