All’s NOT Always Fair in Love and War … But it Can Be!

An OC Relationship Center counselor can work with you to help you understand each other better. It’s funny how we often reserve our nastiest jibes, blame, sarcasm and even insults for those we love most. Think about the way you sometimes speak to your partner in anger and imagine using that tone with a colleague. Most of us wouldn’t (though there are certainly exceptions—and chances are, those aren’t the colleagues we respect). So why do our manners and common sense about constructive, appropriate language often go out the window when we’re home?

Home is a place where we let our guard down, which is usually a good thing—we shouldn’t have to work hard at impressing our partner day in and day out. But that doesn’t mean forgetting they have feelings that can be hurt by snide comments and ugly language—which will probably result in one of the following scenarios: (1) Your partner learns to avoid engaging with you and walks on pins and needles when you’re around, or (2) reciprocates by hurling insults and accusations of their own. It’s a terrible way to build trust and respect. Meanwhile, if you have kids, they suffer the emotional consequences of hearing their parents hurt each other while learning poor communication skills by example.

It’s a normal part of being in a relationship to get angry and frustrated, and it’s healthy to express those feelings. But you can control your words and tone.

  1. Take your emotional inventory before you enter the room. If you are so angry that you don’t trust what you’ll say, wait until you’re less angry. Otherwise, at least take a deep breath and remind yourself that your partner—no matter how angry you are with him or her—is a human being who deserves to be treated respectfully.
  2. If your partner is equally angry and responds to you with vitriol, simply explain that the conversation seems to be spiraling out of control, and you’re not going to discuss the situation until you’re both calm.
  3. When you find yourself looking for the perfect (i.e. meanest) comeback, try turning it on its head and interjecting some humor. Remember “Seinfeld”? Once when Elaine got into a heated argument with her boyfriend, she called him a “grease monkey” as a pejorative for his job as an auto mechanic. Her boyfriend spat back, “You’re a grease monkey!”, an illogical comeback that one couple I know found hilarious. So whenever they get into an ugly spat, that’s their go-to line—“You’re a grease monkey!”—and it always seems to lessen the tension a bit.
  4. When things do get out of hand and you say something you later regret, always apologize. Be specific about what you said, and how you said it. Don’t assume your partner knows that you only said it out of anger—the ugly words might hang in the air for a while, but so will the apology. It goes a long way.

When arguing, however, prevention is still the best medicine. You might not be able to prevent the argument itself, but you can prevent unnecessary rancor by making an effort to mind your p’s and q’s with the people you care about most.

If you and your partner find yourself arguing and hurting each other, and can’t seem to stop the cycle, please give us at a call at 949-220-3211 or schedule an appointment via our online calendar. We at the OC Relationship Center are here to help you.

The Ex Factor: How Much Should You Tell … and When?

Wondering how OC Relationship Center can help? Give us a call today!How much do you tell a new partner about those who came before?

Oprah calls it “The Ex Factor”—the question of how much, if anything, your current partner wants or needs to know about those who has preceded them. The answer depends on a couple of important variables.

If it’s a new relationship, a good “boilerplate answer” is this: past relationships are just that—in the past—and new relationships need to start on their own terms. Bringing old ­romantic baggage into the mix serves no constructive purpose. If a new or potential girlfriend or boyfriend seems overly inquisitive about your exes from the start, what are they trying to accomplish? Do they want to know how they measure up against your exes? Do they want to know if it was you or your ex who broke off the relationship, believing that if you were the one left behind you might be damaged goods?

These kinds of questions may raise red flags. No matter what you tell your new beau about past relationships, or what they’ve heard through the grapevine, they weren’t there and they don’t need know the juicy details. A new relationship deserves to start with a clean slate. Conversely, the new partner who actively volunteers too much information about their own past relationships raises a different set of concerns, including the possibility they’re still nursing wounds over an ex and using you as a rebound or means of rebuilding their self-esteem. You might want to think twice about being more than just friends with someone sending clear signals that past relationships are not entirely in the past.

Now come the exceptions. The obvious one would be whether you have a past relationship that produced children. The topic of integrating a new love interest into your children’s lives is far too vast for this blog, but I definitely believe that any potential mate has the right to know how you and your ex share childrearing responsibilities for the simple reason that these children could someday become part of their lives, too. You both might choose to take things more slowly than you otherwise would.

The relationship you once had with someone you produced children with was obviously more complex than a minor fling or dating relationship that just didn’t work out. If you’re talking about a former spouse, or someone you once expected to spend your life with, that person and relationship represent a major part of your past. While you don’t have to spend your first (or even second or third) date explaining the details of your split, at some point it’s wise to give your new partner an opportunity to ask questions they might have about that past relationship, including why and how it ended. You don’t have to go into every detail, and I always advise showing respect for your ex’s privacy, especially for the sake of your children. However, it can be very helpful for both of you to talk about what occurred with your failed relationship — what you had expected from it, what went wrong and what you learned from that. This can be very instructive in helping you and your new partner go into a new relationship with healthy expectations and eyes wide open.

If you’re still working through emotions from a past relationship that could impact the health of a new relationship, a counselor can work with you to get past obstacles to a healthy relationship. If you’re considering relationship therapy, let the counselors at OC Relationship Center help you see your way clear to happiness. Call us today at 949-220-3211 or book your appointment online via our online calendar.