Every once in a while I hear of someone who is struggling with big issues in their life, but will not see a psychologist or psychiatrist because of a perceived stigma. They fear everyone would think they are ‘nuts’ if they have to see a ‘shrink.’ As in the classroom, sometimes the ones who need the most help are not the ones who ask for it. And yet we do ask for help in other areas of our life, not content to forego expert opinions in important matters.
So we may utilize the services of interior decorators, fashion consultants, personal fitness trainers, and financial planners. After all, our homes, our bodies and our money are too important to be left to amateurs. But what of our emotional health, and our relationships with those closest to us?
These areas are fraught with blind spots, and it is extremely difficult to be truly objective when we are emotionally involved. Many relationships get virtually thrown away, when a few minor repairs would have meant added years of enjoyment. Often two people become deadlocked, completely unable to see anything other than their own point of view. It’s as they have each dug themselves into a hole, going deeper and deeper, only seeing what immediately surrounds them.
It is usually not the contentious issue that is the problem, rather, it is the damage done while trying to deal with the issue that creates the rifts. Everything from tone of voice and facial expression to the words chosen impact the relationship. Anger and frustration may lead to put downs, name calling and to saying things one doesn’t really mean. These are the things that undermine the relationship and destroy the love, more often than the point on which the parties disagree.
This is why it is wise to seek assistance if there is a problem where you just cannot come to resolution. Unresolved problems tend to fester, and to flare up again and again. It is much more difficult to deal with an issue once it has become associated with anger, hurt, and blame, because discussing it brings up all those feelings again.
Often people resist getting help because they truly believe that it is the other person’s problem, and if they would only change, things would be fine. It is rarely that simple. It only seems as though the other person is fully to blame when we are blind to our own part in contributing the problem. For a positive outcome, the goal needs to be to fix the problem, not to fix the other person.
If both parties are willing to focus on understanding both viewpoints, and to resolve the disagreement while preserving the relationship, much can be done. Unfortunately, these are not inborn skills. We all must learn.