Truckee Tahoe: Relationships Part Four
Special to the Sun
TAHOE/TRUCKEE and#8212; Everything is going along fine, you and your partner are driving together to the grocery store, talking about the weather, and then suddenly, somehowand#8230; everything changes.
Like entering a mirrored funhouse with trapdoors, mazes of dark corridors, and floors and stairs that undulate up and down, tipping side to side, you find yourself in what feels like relationship crazyland.
Words are spoken but seem to morph into daggers, invisible walls close in and you feel trapped and suffocated. You feel like you are falling through the floor into nothingness.
What happened? How did you get into this place? And where is the exit?
Most probably, one or both of you got your fear button pressed and#8230; your fear of being controlled, your fear of being betrayed or abandoned, your fear of being judged, your fear of being misunderstood.
Once that button is triggered, you become focused only on protecting yourself. You no longer see your human partner. All you see is the threat. You lose sight of the whole picture of the relationship and#8212; a relationship filled with good times and hard times. You lose sight of the whole picture of your partner and#8212; a complex person with strengths and gifts and vulnerabilities.
You go into survival mode: Fight or flight.
You fight against the threat using any means necessary, including denial, contempt, manipulation or aggression.
You run from the threat, saying that you are ending the relationship and are and#8220;done.and#8221;
But while it may be true the relationship is not a good fit and should end, this is not the time to make those judgments. Once your fear button is pressed, you are not going to be able to see anything clearly, have any productive conversations or make any good decisions.
So, what will help you to stop getting pulled in to this crazy place? And, if you do go in, what will help you to find the exit?
First, it is helpful to recognize it takes a lot of work to gain the strength and power to deal productively with your fears and your partnerand#8217;s fears, instead of allowing the fear to pull you into the funhouse. It is not simply a matter of communication. It involves becoming aware of your fear triggers, keeping perspective even when you feel panic, being willing to walk away when things are getting crazy and taking the time to talk about real conflicts and issues when tempers are cool.
Second, you can only do your part. It is your job to take responsibility for your own fear reactions. It is not your job, nor in your power, to walk on eggshells around your partnerand#8217;s fear buttons to avoid triggering your partner. Taking on that kind of responsibility for someone else (aka codependency) will only weaken you, your partner and the relationship.
Third, this is a life-long process. These pulls into the funhouse are a normal part of the development of a relationship. They are signals of the ever-deeper fears that come up as two people become increasingly close to each other. They are and#8220;relationship crossroadsand#8221; because at the doorway to the funhouse, you have a choice:
You can continue to enter blindly and have a relationship with two people standing on either end of a continually collapsing staircase.
Or, you can learn to keep your clear vision intact and have a relationship with two people who can feel secure in their connection even when the house is spinning.
and#8212; Danielle B. Klotzkin, licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, provides psychotherapy for clients who are looking for a way to move forward through relationship issues, problems with alcohol, drugs, or managing money, eating and body issues, trauma, grief and loss, depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety. Contact her at (530) 470-2233 or truckeecounseling.com.