Know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em
by Roberta Gallagher, LCSW, LMFT
Miami’s Relationship Expert
Perplexed and frustrated about loving someone who doesn’t act like they cherish you? You are successful and confident in every area of your life, but not with your partner, and it’s confusing. Which one is your most authentic self?
The answer is: both. You are both submissive and assertive, depending on the situation, the dynamics of the relationship, and on your need for differing levels of dependency and intimacy in the moment.
Both / And Can Empower and Enhance
This both / and way of being is common. We all have the capacity for being assertive in one role, and submissive in another. The challenge, though, is to use these aspects of ourselves in ways that empower us, and enhance a relationship.
Getting to that place of empowerment and enhanced relationship takes work. In my couples counseling practice, I frequently see the excruciating pain of considering letting go of a person you have invested so much of yourself in. It’s a heartbreaking and gut wrenching struggle for some of my clients.
So I tell them this personal story -- Many years ago I was involved with a man who was charming, sexy, brilliant. And a liar. I went to therapy and wailed about how my heart was breaking. I could not see myself without him.
My therapist said she just did not get it. He had slapped me, betrayed me, stolen from me. And there I was grieving for the fantasy of what I thought this person was. That insight set me on my path to an empowered authentic self, and enhanced relationships.
Breaking up is hard to do. Letting go of a bond that is based not on behavior that matches words, but on some idealized, picture in your mind -- disconnected from the reality you are living -- of how things should be isn’t easy. Here’s what I advise.
Roberta’s prescription for identifying your disconnects
1. Make a list of pros and cons
Give a value number to each item. He is socially embarrassing to me = 8. He cheats = 10. He makes me laugh = 8. She farts =3. I am proud when I am with her = 10. The number you assign is subjective, based on what is important to you.
2. Find the action points
Action points are your objective answers to these questions:
- • What are your deal breakers?
- • What is negotiable?
- • Have you tried counseling?
- • Does being with this person make you feel better or worse about yourself?
- • Have you stood up for yourself in a firm yet soft manner?
- • Do you assert: “This is what I want and need”?
- • Have you said: “This behavior is unacceptable to me and when it occurs, I feel……..”
Which of these points will you follow up on this week? When you do, what response do you get from your partner? Can you see a possibility for real change?
3. Decide to hold or fold
When you make your decision and feel like wavering, pull out your lists. You can stop all communication or gradually withdraw. I believe that surviving the loss of a love requires no contact. For many people they have to do this gradually. Support is useful during this time.
Roberta Gallagher is a licensed marriage and family therapist and relationship expert in private practice in South Miami, with more than 35 years of experience helping partners create lasting, happiness. She is available for couples and individual counseling and can be reached through her website at www.RobertaGallager.com