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Neglecting Your Partner's Needs
There are times when neglect is a little more straight-forward. In some cases, one person in the relationship is fairly explicit with what they need and the other person neglects that need, either directly or indirectly. This is absolutely poisonous to a relationship.
There is nothing that can make one partner resent the other faster than neglect. As we have already established, we enter an intimate relationship in order to get certain needs met. When these needs are intentionally or unintentionally ignored, it causes the person whose needs aren’t being met to feel angry, offended, ashamed, demeaned, and unsafe in the relationship. This is a terrible position to be in.
When this happens, the partner who is being neglected sometimes uses this to justify having an affair, in the hopes that they will get their needs met in another relationship. This is not a healthy way to approach this issue. And if the cheater has, in fact, been neglected, it is still no excuse to engage in an affair.
Again, this is primarily an issue of communication. You need to learn how to communicate what you need to your partner in a way that they can hear. If they consistently have neglected an issue that you have communicated in the past, then you need to discuss this as well.
The injured person who is affected by the affair always has their need to feel safe and secure in their relationship neglected. This is to be expected, and you must accept and deal with it if you are going to make your relationship work. I have helped you cope with some of the thoughts and feelings that are associated with this ignored need in previous chapters.
If you are in a situation where your partner intentionally and consistently ignores your needs and shows no indication that they intend to change that behavior, you might need to sit down, take a hard look at your relationship, and assess whether it is working. The exception to this situation is the desire for certain sexual “needs” to be fulfilled, and we will discuss that later.
It only takes one person to split up a relationship, but it takes two people actively working at it to make a relationship successful.
It is my belief that all relationships can work if both partners genuinely invest in making the relationship work. But if one of the partners does not invest in this process, it can lead the other partner to feel victimized.
This is particularly true if your partner has ignored previous expressions of your need for them to be faithful to the relationship. If they have consistently ignored this basic necessity and you feel strongly that they aren’t making any effort to change in this regard, it could be time to end the relationship.
Whatever your position, you need to temper your needs with a bit of reality. Understand that your needs will not be met all of the time. People make mistakes. Your partner may fail to take care of your needs from time to time. This could even happen with issues you have discussed in the past.
Remember, when you enter an intimate relationship, you are taking all of your most important and difficult psychological issues with you. Your partner is doing the same thing. From time to time, this differing set of needs and expectations is bound to cause some friction in the relationship. This means that sometimes needs will be ignored, both intentionally and unintentionally.
Relationships require work. Anyone who has been in a successful, long-term relationship will tell you this. Work, in this context, doesn’t just mean doing chores and making money (though these are included). When I say work here, I mean emotional work. Sometimes you have to forgive your partner a bit. Sometimes you have to accept them for who they are. Sometimes you have to come to terms with the fact that you can’t always get what you want. The product you are offering (you) is not perfect, and you can’t expect your partner to be perfect either.
But you always need to communicate with your partner. Sometimes this isn’t so easy, but the cost of not communicating is neglect. And as you have seen, neglect can destroy an otherwise good relationship. So stop neglecting your partner, and stop neglecting yourself.
To that end we will now turn to the 10 critical dimensions of a relationship. Exploring these 10 dimensions will help you assess whether there are places in your relationship that currently are suffering from neglect. If there are (and if you have suffered from an affair, there will undoubtedly be areas that you need to work on), examining these various dimensions can help you make an assessment of what needs to change in your relationship.
Ten Destructive Habits That Demolish Trust
At this point, you should have some fairly solid ideas about how you can become transparent and rebuild the trust in your relationship. If you institute the strategies above, trust will blossom, and warmth and love will come back into your relationship. In order to reinforce this process, there are 10 destructive habits that you should stay away from if you truly want to rebuild the trust in your relationship and make it thrive again. In order to initiate and maintain a warm relationship, avoid the following:
1. Neglecting Your Partner. You will
remember that attention is one of the
building blocks of trust. Neglect is its
antithesis. If you consistently neglect your
partner, you can be assured that any trust
youíve developed will falter. Be attentive,
not neglectful. Here are some ways you might
be neglecting your partner:
2. Angry Outbursts. Anger is a feeling. At some time, each of us gets angry. Itís what you do with your anger that can harm your relationship. The caution here is that even when you are angry, be respectful and reassure your partner that you are just angry, not dismissing or un-loving them.
3. Unfair Accusations. You will get nowhere by accusing your partner of not caring about you, having never loved you, going out with their paramour when they are five minutes late from work, trying to take revenge on you, or intentionally trying to hurt you. Accusation is not a good way to rebuild your relationship. It makes your partner defensive, and a combination of accusation and defensiveness generally just leads to useless arguments.
4. Constant Fighting. If you are constantly bickering with your partner at this point in the program, you need to review the 2-stage method for conversation that I presented in Section 6. In it you will find ways to be an active listener. If you cannot effectively do this exercise, then you might want to seek professional counseling. Fighting all the time is akin to being angry all the time. It simply doesnít work to create a healthy and loving atmosphere in which a relationship can flourish in.
5. Taking Revenge. Revenge in any form is a mistake. You certainly donít want to take revenge and have an affair yourself. Nor do you want to get involved in any other kind of revenge. We have already discussed that issue. Even small ways of being vengeful, like snapping at your partner when they say something you donít like, biting sarcasm, or saying passive, hurtful things to or about them, should be avoided. If you feel the desire to be vengeful, go back to Section 1 and look at your feelings more closely.
6. Disrespectful or Demeaning Comments. These donít serve any kind of healthy relationship, and you should particularly avoid them if you are recovering from an affair. There is always a cleaner, more direct way to communicate your needs than being demeaning. Some people, for example, combine their own frustration with a simple request such as, ďWill you open the door for me, please.Ē The combination of the frustration (whether it is related to the request) and the request make the person sound angry. If they are frequently frustrated or overwhelmed, they might come across as always being angry or always talking with an angry voice to their partner. Situations like this are not demeaning by intent, but that is the unintentional impact.
7. Nagging. You certainly will have to make requests of each other from time to time, and you might have to do so multiple times in a day. Asking once or twice about something is okay. Once you go beyond that, you will probably be accused of nagging. If a responsible adult needs more than a few reminders, then some other issue is at work. This is when you need a conversation about the request and whatever issue might be present around that request. Think of times when your partner has nagged you; what issue was going on for you that kept it going? Now think of a time when you nagged your partner. Make a guess about what issue was going on for them that kept it going.
8. Intentionally Engaging in Irritating Habits. If you intentionally annoy your partner by engaging in habits that you know irritate them, then you are not doing all you can to rebuild the trust in your relationship. Cease the behavior, and look at what lies beneath your desire to irritate.
9. Selfish Demands. A relationship isnít about you. It isnít about your partner either. Itís about both of you together as a unit. You need to have your needs met in order for the relationship to function in a healthy way. However, selfish demands do not fall in line with this. These kinds of demands inhibit trust by telling your partner you think your needs are more important than their needs. End the selfishness. Open up to the world of sharing your life with your partner. (If you feel that you or your partner might be having problems with this, have a look at Minefield #3: Inconsiderate Choices in Section 5.)
10. Dishonesty. I left this for the end of the list because if there is one of the 10 destructive habits that I want you to remember to avoid, itís this one. The only thing dishonesty can achieve is a breakdown in trust. It serves nothing else. Donít get confused into thinking that dishonesty will make your life easier later or that you are somehow protecting your autonomy by lying. It wonít, and you arenít. Dishonesty only serves to further hamper your progress toward a more beautiful relationship.