About a month ago, my girlfriend (whom I will refer to as “Kelly”) and I were not getting along very well, and I attributed our difficulties to a mounting mess of unresolved disputes from our past. So I invited Kelly to sit down and talk about our problems. Kelly happily accepted. We agreed to take one resentment at a time, and talk each one through before moving the next. We ate dinner together, sat down on her couch and faced each other. I encouraged Kelly to have this talk between us, so I respectfully let her pick an issue hat is bothering her to talk about.
It was difficult to hear about a problem that she has used against me many times already and I had hoped that she Just forgot about it… But I sucked it up and listened anyway. The festering resentment that Kelly had been lugging around every day for over 3 years started when she had discovered explicit text messages on my phone between me and another woman. I tried to Justify my “dirty-talk” with this woman by blaming Kelly for rejecting me in the worst way imaginable. I had witnessed Kelly having sex tit another man Just after we had started dating.
Kelly knew I was there, but she was so caught up in her own pleasure and enjoyment that my existence was no more significant than a fly on the wall. Kelly ignored everything I did and said as I attempted to get her stop what she was doing, and continued having sex with him until she became satisfied. I was completely devastated and overwhelmed with rejection. I could have left Kelly after what she had done. But I felt that if I can forgive her for this then I will hold all of controlling cards in our relationship.
So I chose to stay with her, and see how things go… I expected Kelly to suck up to me, kiss my ass, and make up for her actions in every way she possibly could… But that never happened. Kelly ignored it and never even gave me the chance to express my feelings of betrayal and devastation to her about it. Consequently, I let the resentment build up in me over time, mainly because I lacked assertiveness, so I buried my feelings to avoid conflict and reliving that dreadful event. So when Kelly initially confronted me about my text messages with this other woman,
I responded to it by becoming defensive, trying to Justify my actions by blaming her for betraying me with another man. I tried to make her believe that my behavior was the result of her actions. I tried to make her believe that my interest in another woman was all her fault and that my dirty little secret was only talk and not sex, and against me. Ultimately, I felt entitled to do whatever I wanted because she had cheated with another man and she did it right in front of me. Since then, I have tried to figure out what it is that I had done prior to Kelly’s actions hat may have influenced her choice to reject me that way.
I started to realize allot of things about myself while progressing through psychological treatment, and through this process I have practiced expressing empathy, sharpening my listening skills and I have been doing much better with each new skill that I have learned. But as I continued to use each new skill in my daily life, I could not avoid feeling somewhat coercive when I used empathy and assertiveness at times with Kelly. I had been purposely thinking out how to use the right tone if voice, overlapping ententes and using memorized feeling words Just to show empathy… Inconsequently, my new communication style started to feel somewhat rehearsed, fake and coercive to me… I knew I was saying the right things, but I started to feel that sometimes my words were liking real meaning and sincerity… Speaking to people as if I were following directions from a book about how to communicate. But this particular sit-down talk with Kelly turned out to be more positively significant than any other talk that we have ever had. Everything that I have learned in therapy has been a benefit to my relationship with Kelly , and everyone else in my life for that matter..
But reflecting back a few months, before having this conversation with her, I realized that I still hadn’t been able to sort of tie it all together and use everything that I have learned so far without thinking too much about communication styles and details. I have been using listening skills, expressing empathy, taking accountability, and modifying my behavior more and more each week, and I have taken every opportunity to use each new skill as much as possible. But I have recently realized hat I was only getting better at using each skill independent from the others.
Toward the end of our “conflict resolution talk”, I felt the greatest sense of relief in our relationship to see how happy Kelly was becoming as our conversation progressed. I had not realized how powerful of an impact that genuine empathy and listening to her every word would have on both of us. I believe that I actually felt the same pain that she had felt when she read those words on my phone. It was overwhelming!.. I felt a brick in my stomach made of betrayal and devastation s Kelly expressed the embarrassing details of my dirty text messages.
She had said these same words to me before, describing her heartache over it, but I must have Just blocked her words out or I interrupted her in selfness and denial each time . The feelings inside of me made the event seem much more significant than I had realized. I could see it the way that she had experienced it but this time, the event upon me was very profound and I was taken over by guilt and shame. Truly understanding and experiencing Kelly’s feelings caused emotions inside of me that kook control of my body language.
I forgotten about my own resentments. I tried to hide my emotions, because I felt that have no right to cry over the pain that I had inflicted on her, but I couldn’t stop the tears.. Kelly, moved to my side, laid her head on my shoulder and wrapped her arms me. This was the first time that I had ever been successful in expressing pure empathy. This one particular dispute was resolved, but the scar will last forever. But Kelly and I now share this scar and we view our remaining unresolved disputes as teammates from the opposing dugout.
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