Dealing with fighting parents

Instead of a long post, this time I came to share a genius solution which one of our training students in Zagreb, Croatia came up with when either of her parents tried to turn her against the other.

Her parents continually tried to argue through her, such as, “Your mother did that”, “Your father said that” etc. This is sadly common. When fighting parents use such passive-aggressive strategies,  this often creates huge problems for young children, such as anxiety, low self-esteem, responsibility problems and chronic inner conflict. How did she deal with this in her younger age, we didn’t ask at that time, but here is what she came up with as an adult:

She told her parents: From now on, if you insist on telling me what the other one said or did, you have to refer to the other one as “my chosen one”. No more “your father” or “your mother”. If you want me to listen, you can only say, “My chosen one did this”.

Genius, isn’t it? Such a simple expression that makes it very clear whose is the responsibility. Non-aggressive, truthful, argument-proof, although, sadly,  not necessarily fool-proof. Do your parents fight through you? Try this! And let us know what happened.

Are you able to face pain?

Unwillingness to face emotional pain makes us shallow. We might avoid experiences, especially if they are unfamiliar or a bit risky. With every experience we avoid, we deny ourselves learning and wisdom, as well as liveliness and sense of wonder.

If we are not willing to face pain, we will look for instant solutions for our emotional and relationship problems. We might believe manipulative promises that offer magical benefits without effort and thus waste enormous amounts of time, money and energy. We won’t be willing to learn, challenge ourselves and grow step by step.

Yet such “magical” solutions are not like taking aspirin for a short term headache. They are much more like taking a painkiller to avoid toothache; the more you ignore it, the worse the problem might become.

Some people might even avoid compassion, as compassion is sometimes painful. That might lead to hypocrisy, victim blaming and outright selfish behavior.

Unwillingness to face emotional pain might make us try to control our lives and external circumstances. We might be intolerant to our own and other people’s “mistakes”. We might try to manipulate people into doing what we want. We might criticize and condemn whatever challenges our preferences. Our efforts to avoid pain might cause pain for us or others (such as with people who abandon others so that they wouldn’t risk being abandoned).

Avoiding pain might have different roots. Perhaps you experienced so much pain in childhood that you blocked all of your emotions because it was too much to bear at the time. Parts of you might be unaware that you are not a child anymore and that such emotions are not likely to overwhelm you as if you were a toddler.

Perhaps your family set an example of avoiding pain, whether by pretending that everything is rosy and wonderful when it wasn’t, or by overprotecting you and discouraging you to face challenges. If children perceive parents as afraid of pain, pain becomes much more powerful in their imagination than it actually is.

Perhaps you are afraid of mistakes and punishment. Imaginary punishment might appear worse than the pain you already know. Some people might avoid even a change for the better, even if they pay a high price for their current behavior (such as toxic relationships, arguments, anger…). Subconsciously, such a person can feel that if they try something new, they might make a mistake – and mistakes are unforgivable and create a feeling such as “I’m a bad person!”.
Such beliefs are usually learned in childhood and carried on a deep, instinctive level. They might be obviously unrealistic; they might cause obvious suffering to ourselves and people around us. But if we are conditioned to avoid mistakes, it might feel like a posthypnotic suggestion; we don’t really know why we do things, but we feel unable to resist the urges.

Yet pain can sometimes motivate you more than anything else. It can make you understand other people. It can make it obvious what is truly important to you. Sadness can motivate you to search for what is missing in your life. Even guilt and shame mean that you have learned a lesson and will know better next time. Growth is almost impossible without some pain. And when you allow yourself to feel pain, you will probably discover that it’s much more tolerable than you thought it was.

If you can support yourself through pain, you build the kind of relationship with yourself that can carry you through any challenge. It can give you courage to take risks. With willingness to take emotional risks, you can open yourself to experiences that will make your life worthwhile. You might end up “on the top of the world” instead of hiding in a cave.

 

 

Personal courage

For sensitive people, it can be difficult to express an unpopular opinion. You might write something publicly – an article, a comment – only to find out later that your words were twisted to extremes and savagely attacked. You might pour your heart and longings in front of the world, only to be mocked or dismissed with artificial, cold politeness.

You might object to generalizations of all sorts – generalizations against Muslims, against Western society, against hypocritical “patriotism”, against the passive-aggressive lamentations about “humans being so much worse than animals (author and his/her friends excluded, of course)” etc.  You might object to pseudoscience and extreme views. You might feel that you are trying to be friendly and helping people let go of prejudice and come to a mutual understanding. The problem is, this is not what many people want.

We are wired to defend our prejudice. We are wired to defend people we feel close to, even against evidence that they might have done something wrong. Those generalized, extreme ideas help people feel more powerful and better than others. They will not take it lightly if you try to take them away. They will easily find excuses to attack you. You might write about people being kind and compassionate – and somebody will always find a way to interpret it as if you suggested that their dear old grandmother should be strangled in her sleep.

Should you give up and stop bothering? The pain of rejection might make you feel that it’s not worth it. Your need to belong, your instinct to be a part of a group, might scare you into avoiding trouble, especially after many unpleasant surprises already behind you.

But it’s not about changing other people – or at least not specific other people, or at least not quickly. It’s about being true to your conscience and your values. You are putting your thoughts out there, not to elicit a specific reaction, but to be at least one voice in midst of many, perhaps a voice that might make some small difference here and there. Even more than that, it’s about supporting yourself in face of fear and pain.

Some people will hide between artificial, oversimplified “political correctness” to avoid talking about complex problems. Some people will misunderstand your words, whether accidentally or semi-deliberately. Some might try to insult or frighten you into submission.

But it’s not about fighting them. It’s about gently, lovingly challenging yourself to be brave, to own your words, to make mistakes and learn. That is courage. Sometimes you will choose wrong words. Sometimes you will make assumptions based on inaccurate data or rumors. Sometimes you will be perfectly correct and reasonable, but people just won’t like what you say. And twisting words is so easy.

Yet for every person who attacks you, there might be three that are silently considering what you said. Perhaps they cannot find courage to approve you publicly, but it doesn’t mean that you were unheard and unappreciated. Aggressive people are usually the loudest, and gentle people are more likely to observe in silence. Still, they are there and they are many.

If you expose yourself, you will often be attacked. Sometimes you will be wrong, even if you take care to write with highest integrity. Your mistakes will be used against you. Yet, every mistake means that you are building wisdom. How could you become wise if you avoid experiences? Slowly, you might become slightly more bulletproof, even if expressing unpopular opinion might never be easy. But you will feel alive – much more alive than if you were hiding like a hermit crab in its shell.

 

 

Diet, stress and anxiety

A danger in any therapy practice is if a therapist only focuses on one aspect of the problem – usually the one (s)he is specialized in. While most emotional issues have at least some psychological components that can be addressed through therapy, it’s important to notice other possibilities that should be taken in consideration as well.

Our physical bodies and emotional lives are not independent of each other – physical issues can create or enhance emotional problems, as well as the other way around. A common example is when people under physical stress are less able to control their immature emotional urges. Did you experience being tired, hungry or sleepy, and lashing out at people around you? Even such common, everyday stress can deplete our bodies of energy needed for suppressing immature emotions or keeping them in line.

What happens if the stress is less easy to notice and recover from? PMS in women is one of the obvious examples – and there are many others that might not be so obvious. I worked with a couple some years back; the woman complained that the man was irritable, disinterested and lacked focus. We worked on some of their disagreements in values, expectations, communication and underlying transference, and while it certainly did bring improvement, the real breakthrough only happened when the man went to a health check. It turned out his thyroid was malfunctioning. After receiving medication, his emotional balance returned quickly and easily. This didn’t resolve all of the issues in their partnership, but it certainly made them much easier to work with.

Another client, who carried huge emotional burdens from childhood, reported great improvements after therapy – and an extra important improvement happened when she removed processed sugar from her diet. She told me that her moods were much more stable now, and while childhood issues were certainly important to work with (and we continued to do so) it was easier to deal with them when her body was also more balanced. Food allergies and sensitivities can have emotional consequences too.

Lack of nutrition or other physical imbalance can also cause or enhance emotional symptoms. Your body might feel in crisis even if you wouldn’t consciously notice. Modern extreme diets, which often remove whole groups of foods from one’s diet, usually bring temporary relief (which I’m convinced is mostly due to eliminating processed foods – something that every diet has in common), but after a while, nutritional imbalance causes huge stress for the body – and that stress can show as emotional symptoms.

This is equally true about vegan diets and very low carb diets (which often remove not just bread and pasta, but even fruit, legumes and root vegetables from one’s menu) – to name just a few. Vegans might develop anemia, for example, which can worsen in menstruating women. Such women can experience anxiety and depression on top of physical symptoms. Low carb diets might cause glucose imbalance, which in turn can lead to thyroid and adrenal problems – both strongly related to emotional symptoms. That’s what happens when we trust very limited, one-dimensional research data or even just other people’s theories rather than our own bodies.

Some people keep “pushing their bodies around” in search for a perfect body; from one diet to another, from one strict exercising regime to another, with occasional unhealthy binges on processed food in between. I can easily imagine that years of such bodily stress might cause chronic anxiety and other emotional symptoms. I will not advise you to just accept unhealthy weight if you have it – it’s always better to strive towards health than to give it up – but, by all means,  keep some sense of balance and treat your body with respect and kindness. Nature is all about constantly re-creating complex balance. We humans keep on thinking that we can cheat and “hack” nature by one extreme practice or the other – but nature always wins in the end.

If you are a therapist, you might feel that it endangers your practice and income if you warn people about potential solutions that have nothing to do with your area of expertise. Well, perhaps you will lose a couple of sessions a month – but there are more than enough family imbalance and childhood trauma floating around to keep you busy. And everybody who acts with integrity, makes the world just a little bit better. It always makes me feel warm inside when I see articles on internet that radiate thoughtfulness and respect for people rather than manipulation and confidence without competence. I strive to be one of such authors. I never had cause to regret it.

 

My 2 cents about chemtrails

A few years ago, the idea of chemtrails (conspiracy theory which claims that condensation trails left by airplanes are full of dangerous chemicals deliberately sprayed to damage, manipulate and enslave people) was rather unknown and promoted by only a handful of people. These days, when I look at my Facebook homepage (I know, it’s Facebook, but still…), chemtrails are all over the place. Many people talk about them as casually as about weather, as something obvious and proven true. If I try to challenge such comments with logical questions, the reactions are often angry or condescending; some people claim that I’m “in denial”, “lazy” or “refuse to see the obvious”. So I’ll write some of my thoughts here, in hope that whoever reads them is willing to think rather than believe.

According to some promoters of chemtrails theory, such harmful spraying is a common practice all around the world. It actually doesn’t stop with airplanes; the conspiracy is supposed to include things like huge radars which emit harmful frequencies, geoengineering and other practices. But, let’s keep it simple and stay with chemtrails only.

First of all, such practice would demand huge resources and huge number of people involved: factories to produce such chemicals, people who would organize and execute packing, distribution, fueling airplanes and actual spraying. Let’s say that a number of manual workers might be oblivious of the true purpose of their jobs; it still leaves a lot of people who are aware of what’s going on. These people all have children, families or at least friends out there. Hell, they themselves have to go outside and breathe the air that we share. Don’t you think there would be whistle blowers? Even less harmful practices have whistle blowers. Or are we supposed to believe that there are so many socially isolated psychopaths out there who all stay at home with gas masks all the time and never experience spring or summer outside? Or that they are all given magic pills to counter those chemicals (more resources, more people involved) so that they could go outside?

You could say that all the media keep rejecting and downplaying such reports because of fear or corruption. If it was so, wouldn’t the media also avoid or downplay Edward Snowden or the Wikileaks affair, for example? Quite the opposite, the media jumped on those affairs with delight. Such stories are fresh meat for media; they are what brings most profit. Media are often willing to promote them even without enough proof, even at a risk of loosing a little bit of credibility. If there was anybody with actual reasonable data about chemtrails, media would fight over them.

Let’s think about some technical aspects next. Obviously, the more developed a country, the more efficient and common such high-tech practices would be. As a result, the people in highly developed countries would be more docile, more manipulable, more afraid to speak against the government; less creative and less individualistic. Yet if you take a look into what is going on around the globe, it’s people in undeveloped countries who are likely to be easier to manipulate (religious manipulation, for example), less independent, more traditional and more afraid. It comes with fight for survival, lack of resources and lack of available education, of course.

There is something seductively pleasant in having some vaguely defined “others” to blame and be angry at; to feel like a victim of some powerful, soulless entity; to feel righteous and clean-handed. My therapist’s brain immediately seeks for connections with early childhood feelings, and I can find many: feeling helpless, feeling controlled by whims of powerful people, feeling excluded from vitally important decisions…

Indeed, most people I know who believe in chemtrails also have huge unresolved issues with their parents. Don’t most of us, though? Yes, so this observation is just a theory of mine, but I’m letting it out here in case somebody might want to consider where their anger comes from.

My primary worry is that in wasting energy on such far-fetched theories that make no logical sense, we are drawn away from real problems that we could do something about: pollution, poverty, discrimination, social injustice, wars… These are things that we could take some responsibility for and do some things, however small, to improve the situation. The problem is, with such problems, we are all responsible. We are all accomplices. It’s easier to blame somebody else.

If you believe in chemtrails, I’m not seeking to change your mind. I just want to make it clear that blaming other people for not believing in the same things as you, or trying to change their minds just by expecting them to believe anybody’s word, doesn’t make sense. I don’t have problems with believing in conspiracies that include a small number of powerful individuals with a limited scope of personal gain. But a conspiracy that includes whole professions all across the Earth, which would themselves be harmed by their own actions…  it doesn’t fulfill my criteria of reasonable. There is plenty of pain in the world that is real and that we could do something about. Let’s do something about it.

Internal issues and external solutions

Even when we are well aware that our strong emotions might be awakened memories from childhood, we might still find it very difficult to focus inwards to resolve those emotions. The urge to blame people around us and seek to change or control them can be overpowering. Why is it so difficult to recognize the truth even after spending much energy in vain, causing stress to ourselves and others by trying to change who they are? Even if we know that the real cause of our emotions is probably in our pasts?

As babies and toddlers, it’s our biological instinct to turn to other people to solve our problems. Hungry? Mommy will nurse you. Peed yourself? They will change your diapers. Bored? Scream energetically enough and they will do their best to amuse you. Tired? They will do just about anything to avoid waking you up and enjoy some well deserved peace. Even children of toxic parents inevitably learn that sooner or later, no matter how much pain and struggle experienced in the meantime, at least their basic needs would be fulfilled by others. Thus the biological instinct is reinforced and grows into an emotional habit.

When we age regress into childish emotions, this instinct can be awakened alongside them. Age regression includes forgetting or temporarily losing touch with our adult resources. What would be more natural in such a state than to turn to the solutions experienced in childhood? Thus we may once again feel as if our emotional well-being or even survival depends of those around us. This essentially means that we confuse other people around us with our parents.

This is visible in many parts of adults’ lives. People try to solve their emotional problems through all kinds of external means. For some people, money can be a weird substitute for parents, as it provides safety, comfort and toys (often other people’s attention, too). Others might turn to religion (heavenly father), magic or New Age bioenergy theories. Food can be a temporary emotional comfort, reminding us of the pleasure of being fed on our mothers’ breasts.

Where this instinct of seeking external solutions is most obvious, are intimate relationships. They are often created as substitutes for parent-child relationships from the start, and when problems arise and we regress into childish states, it can be extremely difficult to take responsibility for our feelings. The old instincts from childhood awaken again and we can start expecting our partners to provide solutions – which usually means expecting them to change.

It never rains but pours – and usually in an intimate relationship, both people experience childish states from time to time. This means that both start demanding the other to change. The problem is, even if our partner tries to change, the childish parts of us will always want more – just like, as children, we always needed more from our parents.

Depending of how much time people spend in such states, their relationships will deteriorate and they will start accumulating resentment. If good communication skills are lacking, too, a crisis is almost inevitable. If an age-regressed state is intense, it can take exceptional self-awareness and responsibility to avoid blaming your partner and pull yourself back into an adult frame of mind.

I hope this can help you understand an aspect of relationship behavior which very few people are aware of. Simple understanding won’t bring automatic change – but it might help you deal with your childish issues in the moments when this is most important.

 

Beauty and marriage

Many women are worried about their looks. I don’t really have to explain much about it. Sufficient to quote someone from endless forums around: “I’ve never seen a woman who would be truly beautiful without make up.” Personally, I think it’s ridiculous. Many people wouldn’t, though. This is where being endlessly bombarded by photoshopped pictures brought us.

However, there is something that I’ve noticed observing people in life and in my therapeutic practice: while beautiful women might receive more attention, it’s often the average (and sometimes below-average) looking women whose marriages are usually much happier and long lasting.

Cynics might say it’s because such women demand less of men because they want to keep them around. There might be some truth in it, but in my experience, it’s certainly not the detrimental part of the truth. It would seem that men who choose such women as life partners generally have good quality values: they appreciate the essence rather than the surface, the woman’s personality rather than her looks.

In such a situation, both partners are probably more realistic and less concerned about status and appearance. This makes for a good start! Quite a few not-so-good looking women told me about their partners’ kindness, consideration and patience. Often those are the marriages that are truly “till death us do part”. The surviving partner usually cherishes the memory of the departed one.

So, ladies, if you think yourself not beautiful enough, this might give you more hope for your present or future relationships. Consider going out without make up sometimes – perhaps that would be a good filter for potential partners! Not many men might be attracted to you – but those who are, might be worth it.

Reasons for victim blaming

If you read about people in trouble, or victims of violence or political circumstances… do you find reasons why such things wouldn’t happen to you? “I would have done differently in such a situation”, “If I was her, I would’ve tried to escape”, “It’s their mentality, why don’t they fight against oppression?”, or, in a New Age way, “He probably attracted this by his negative attitude!”

Victim blaming is a common, automatic defense mechanism – an attempt to conquer our fears and achieve a feeling that we are not at the mercy of chance. Feeling out of control of our lives is very frightening and it’s natural to try to defend against it, even if it means employing a very subjective logic.

Unfortunately, this often results in subtle or less subtle blaming of victims of violence, while the responsibility of victimizers can be ignored or diminished. In our need to avoid fear, we don’t want to give much power or attention to a victimizer; we don’t want to feel that we would become just another victim in similar circumstances. We want to feel that we would have been stronger, more special, and so we search for explanations how a victim could have avoided the trouble, but failed because of some mistake (s)he made.

However, even if a victim did make a mistake, who of us doesn’t sometimes? Can you think of situations in which you could have been hurt if people you trusted turned out to be dishonest, or if just a little detail was different? How many times did you take risks knowing that you were taking risks? Can you really live life without ever taking any chance? Even if we consider avoidable violence such as domestic violence, there are often circumstances that are easy to ignore, such as upbringing and family brainwashing. How many of us did really get rid of our own family traditions and old beliefs? For a person who grew up in abusive circumstances, abuse can feel normal and unavoidable.

So, out of a need to avoid our own fears, we can inflict pain on people who already hurt enough, or even indirectly allow violence. We can look down at and be arrogant to people who experienced betrayal, injustice or pain. “Weren’t there any warning signals?” Of course there were, but do you respond to every potential warning signal you feel? If that was so, most people would just avoid each other. Even suspicion has to be treated with suspicion sometimes.

We cannot avoid using this defense mechanism, but we can recognize it and remind ourselves of what it is. We can consciously employ parts of ourselves that are compassionate and responsible. Perhaps we can not only avoid saying such things aloud, but do something that would make unfortunate people hurt less. Victim blaming is easy. Compassion takes maturity.

Are you critical to others?

Criticism can have different causes, but one often overlooked is fear.

Is it difficult for you to set boundaries? Do you have trouble saying “No”, or do you avoid conflicts? If you doubt your ability to defend yourself, you might expect people to know in advance where your boundaries are, and respect them without you needing to remind them. That is very unlikely to happen.

Even if people didn’t have toxic role models (and most do),  our genetic diversity includes different levels of emotional sensitivity or empathy, and different temperaments. What is hurtful to one person might be normal to another. Think about sensitivity to noise: a noise that might be distracting and stress-inducing for one person, might be stimulating or barely even noticeable to another. Emotional sensitivity is similarly different amongst people.

Some people come from families in which raising voices, disagreeing and arguing was normal – most of the time perhaps even friendly. People from quieter families might be totally unprepared for such communication style.

It get’s worse if one’s family was aggressive or manipulative – if a child was controlled through guilt, fear or shame. Anger is a natural, instinctive reaction to guilt, fear and shame. Such people, even as adults, might respond with anger as soon as their guilt, fear or shame threaten to raise their heads. Those emotions might not be realistic – it might just be an automatic reaction to small triggers.

People whose boundaries weren’t respected in their childhoods, will probably have learned to suppress their anger and avoid expressing themselves. Fear and anger in combination may lead to criticism. You might call people irresponsible, rude, selfish or stupid in the privacy of your own mind. You are also likely to resort to passive aggression. Perhaps it is so normal to you that you barely even notice when you do that. Even if you notice, you might feel that there is no other choice.

People cannot read your mind. We are already dealing with so many other influences every single minute of our lives. It’s so easy to be distracted if nothing else. Misunderstandings happen for all kinds of reasons – and if not clarified, can lead to complex, unnecessary consequences.

Also, it seems to be almost an instinct for most people to take whatever they feel they can get. If somebody is pliable, easy to manipulate, insecure or overly generous, few people have the self-awareness and self-discipline to notice when they start exploiting the situation and to stop themselves from doing so. If somebody is more insecure than you, do you feel an urge to dominate? This is an instinct that might be weaker in some people, and stronger in others.

Criticism won’t help. The first step (a sequence of steps, more likely) is to deal with inhibiting emotions from childhood and learn to empower yourself. The second step is to learn new habits – clarity, standing up for yourself, communication skills. This might include choosing new role-models.

The first few times you try a new approach might be frightening. You need to be well prepared for anything that might happen and willing to support and comfort yourself. But you will survive; if you make mistakes you will learn something from them, and each time you will feel stronger and more comfortable, until you feel confident in your ability to cope with people. Perhaps then you will notice that criticism doesn’t feel so necessary anymore, that it doesn’t come so automatically.

The more you feel willing and able to protect your boundaries, the more you can feel relaxed amongst people and even tolerate some of their less pleasant traits. Still, it’s normal to feel some level of discomfort if somebody is behaving in unhealthy or threatening ways. Emotional discomfort is a normal and healthy warning signal. There is a huge difference, though, between adult and childish emotional discomfort. If your emotions are adult, you will be motivated rather than debilitated.

Do you feel taken for granted? Abuse and unconditional love

A common pattern in unhealthy relationships is when (at least) one of the partners takes the other for granted, perhaps being aggressive, manipulative or dismissive – but when the other partner decides to leave, the first suddenly starts acting like an abandoned puppy. The abuser then apologizes, pleads, brings gifts, swears eternal love, promises to change, often brings up horrible stories from his/her childhood to provoke pity and guilt.

The other partner (usually caught up in his/her own childhood needs, hoping to finally resolve with this person what was left unresolved with parents) decides that the relationship is worth giving another chance and stays. Within days, the abuser’s behavior is back to what it was before: perhaps insults, lies, undermining the partner’s self-confidence, or even physical violence. After a while, the victim decides it’s enough and tries to leave again. The abuser is again devastated. And so the cycle can continue for years – sometimes for lives.

Does this sound familiar? Something important to understand if you are in such a relationship, is that if your partner sees you as a parent substitute, as soon as the relationship is safe and back to routine, (s)he will continue to take you for granted. The normal attitude of a child towards parents is to take parents for granted – unless parents threaten to leave (or perhaps get sick or similar). An emotionally childish person will act in the same way towards an intimate partner.

A childish partner might expect you to behave like a perfect, idealized parent – to fulfill and even anticipate anything they might desire, while allowing them to do whatever they want regardless of your own desires and needs. In the same time, they might vent at you all the anger and resentment they felt for their own parents, but didn’t feel safe to express to them. (It’s quite common to express our unresolved emotions from past towards people we feel safest with. Sometimes the target becomes the intimate partner – sometimes one’s own children.)

Such a childish person might defend their attitude with the idea of “unconditional love”, meaning that YOU should love THEM as they are (but they are not willing to give the same in return). This is again a kind of love a parent would give to a child. It’s normal and healthy for parents not to expect their child to share their responsibilities, or to pay back for their gifts and efforts. But this is NOT a healthy partnership of two adult people, especially if they plan to have children.

In such a situation, when a child is born, things get worse, not better. The childish partner becomes resentful of new responsibilities and demands, as well as lack of previously received attention from their spouse, which is now focused to their child. A childish parent might become jealous and resentful of his/her own child, with predictable consequences for the child.

Some people in troublesome relationships are not quite sure whether they should trust themselves of their partner’s words. This requires a quick course in knowing your own emotions and distinguishing between adult and immature emotions. Perhaps, while growing up, you were discouraged from trusting your instincts and giving importance to your feelings and needs. Your body will warn you if your fears, doubts and guilt are not realistic – but you need to learn to recognize such signals.

You are probably taken for granted if:

– your partner dismisses your emotions and needs, and refuses to communicate about them (or communicates through insults and refuses to consider your point of view)

– your partner is not willing to forgive or tolerate small mistakes

– your partner does not invest similar effort into your relationship as (s)he demands of you

– he or she refuses to compromise – but expects you to give up your desires and values

– he or she repeatedly disregards your previous agreements

– he or she expects you to take over most of the adult responsibilities (housework and/or finances)

– you don’t like your partner’s behavior, but you stay in hope that (s)he would change.

Of course, each of these ideas can be misinterpreted and twisted in many creative ways, so approach them carefully. Almost everybody has some moments of taking their partner for granted. This is to be expected – after all, whatever and whoever becomes a normal part of our lives, our brains try to fill them under “routine” and forget about them – so that we could focus on learning new things. In partnerships, we have to keep reminding ourselves not to take others for granted. A lapse here and there is understandable. But if somebody behaves in these ways more or less all the time, it’s time to seriously consider if this is what you want your foreseeable future.

If you allow somebody to treat you as described above, you were probably raised not to trust yourself too much. Perhaps you were a child of an irresponsible person, so it became normal for you to take more responsibility than would normally belong to you. Or you had so little experience with unreasonable people that you cannot imagine somebody who would behave in such selfish ways without a good reason.

Check what do you hope for if your partner would change. If you hope for recognition, approval, acknowledgment… perhaps this is something you always wanted to receive from your parents, but never did? Consider that perhaps you are trying to finish something with your partner that was left unfinished with your parents.

Such emotions from childhood need to be resolved first. After that, you might need to practice trusting your feelings and expressing them in mature ways. If that doesn’t give results, you might need to end the relationship, except if you prefer to suffer. Fortunately, once you clarify your childhood emotions, you won’t feel anymore that your current partner is the only one for you and that your life would feel empty if you separate. You can go on and find a true adult relationship.