“I Don’t Want Someone Else. I Want You - Just Better”
Updated: Jun 30
In The New Rules of Marriage: What You Need to Know To Make Love Work couples therapist Terry Real describes “the crunch” in relationships as the gap between the relationship that you have and the one that you wish you had. “The crunch,” something that we all experience but that far too few of us acknowledge, is a fundamental aspect of any intimate relationship. But our broader culture doesn’t help to model the reality of this universal disappointment. Hollywood romcoms, other people’s social media feeds, your weird cousin who insists that her husband is completely perfect and who feels compelled to share (via group text) shots of the amazing birthday surprise he arranged for her this year, all conspire to leave us feeling that our relationship and our partner are uniquely disappointing.
When we are thrust into what Terry Real calls “the raw experience of our unmet needs” we too often find ourselves acting in ways that are comfortable, familiar, and, profoundly counterproductive. We want to close the gap and heal the crunch; we want to be close to our partner, we want them to understand what we are feeling, to see things from our point of view, and to validate our experience. This wish for a shared perspective and reconnection is completely understandable, healthy, and universal. The problem is that what we end up actually doing in our attempt to try to get our partners to understand only ends up driving them further away and getting us even less of what we really want. That’s why Terry calls these behaviors “The Five Losing Strategies” for dealing with conflict with your partner.
So, what are the Five Losing Strategies?
Unbridled Self Expression
Sharing how hurt, angry, or outraged you feel in the name of venting, getting things off your chest, or so-called open, honest communication. Expressing how horrible you feel, or how terribly you think your partner has behaved, won't get them to listen, let alone change.
Needing to Be Right
Stating "objectively" what "really happened" so that your partner will understand the "truth" and change their opinion, understanding, or position. You may even be "right" and have evidence to prove your case, but it still won't get you any closer to your partner.
Controlling Your Partner
"Getting" your partner to do what you want, to change, to be better, or to get back to how they were when you were first together doesn't work. People don't like being controlled or manipulated into changing or doing something, even when it's the right thing to do, or "for their own good."
Trying to get your partner to understand how hurt or upset you feel by hurting them back, or by passive aggressively holding back. Offending from the victim position won't make your partner more accountable, understanding, or sorry for what they did that hurt you.
Whether it's motivated by a desire to punish your partner, avoid conflict, protect yourself from vulnerability, or to just remove yourself from an exhausting exchange or a continually difficult topic, unilateral withdrawal is not an effective strategy for keeping the peace in a relationship.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll explore each of these losing strategies. In the meantime, you can check out my Five Losing Strategies For Getting What You Want in Your Relationship infographic, which provides a brief overview of all five of them. And if you’re looking for a preview of some savvy alternatives that you can try instead, check out my overview of Terry Real’s Five Winning Strategies For Getting What You Want In Your Relationship as well.
If you’d like my relationship ideas and resources delivered directly to your inbox
The relationship you wish for is possible, but sometimes skills and tools aren’t enough to get you there. Most of us have times in our lives when we need help to rebuild the passion and connection in our relationships. If this is where you are - reach out. I can help.