"You Need to Get Just How Effing Pissed I Am at You Right Now!”
Updated: Jul 4
Unlike the “Losing Strategies,” Needing to Be Right and Controlling Your Partner, where the impetus driving our behavior is most often a distorted longing to reconnect, the Losing Strategy of Unbridled Self Expression comes most directly from a desire to unleash our anger, to vent, to get our partners to actually experience our upset.
Of course, on some level, even our most out of control expressions of hurt and anger often remain a perverse expression of our yearning for connection. When our partner disappoints us when they let us down when we don’t get what we want from them, we want our partners to viscerally understand the depth of how horrible we feel, to get the full impact of their actions on us.
For many of us the culture of our families growing up and the implicit and explicit broader cultural messaging against keeping things “bottled up” encourages this destructive behavior in the name of “openness,” “honesty,” “authenticity,” or “healthy self-expression.” Early therapeutic models also often encouraged such conduct as an alternative to suppressing our feelings. But this is a false dichotomy. The options aren’t to either rage at our partners or to just swallow our feelings and suck it up. There’s a vast difference between telling your partner “I’m really angry that you told the neighbors that we’d go to their Ugly Christmas Sweater in July party without checking with me first." And screaming at them “I can’t believe you would be so presumptuous and inconsiderate! What the &%*@ do you expect me to wear?”
Obviously, regaining our sense of centeredness and control isn’t easy, especially when our partners’ actions are far more egregious than obliging us to don hideous synthetic knitwear in ninety-four-degree weather. But if we can keep in mind our deepest goal – to be truly heard, for our partners to understand and internalize our feelings and perspectives - then we can take a time out to give ourselves space. Space to calm down, to gather ourselves, and to get centered enough to clearly and calmly express how we feel. It is with this deliberate, firm, and measured expression of our authentic experience that our partners are much more likely to be open to what we have to say and to move with us into repair.
In future weeks I’ll explore the remaining Losing Strategies as well the Five Winning Strategies that you can use instead. If you’d like my relationship ideas and resources delivered directly to your inbox sign up for my free newsletter.
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.