The Pain of Genuine Relationship   Leave a comment


I could share many troubles that jumped Kimberly and me because of conflicting needs.  One of the most painful and intractable is based on her focus on acceptance and my focus on improvement.  Because of our families, personalities, and experiences, we have each fine tuned our coping strategies to survive threats to our emotional well-being: she is a people pleaser and I am a people fixer.


In relationships, she provides emotional support and I provide practical solutions.  I am pretty good at empathizing, but that is not my goal.  My goal is to help folks find a way forward.  Kimberly is encouraged to see folks move forward, but that is incidental since her goal is to “be there” for others.  I seek change, she seeks stability; I want action, she wants presence; I need hope, she needs patience.

Naturally, when our coping mechanisms do not “work,” do not protect us, we each feel deeply threatened at our core.  You can see where this is going.  I feel loved when someone understands my struggle and adjusts to my needs; I feel rejected if my friend does not change.  Kimberly feels loved when she is accepted as she is; she feels rejected when her friend asks her to change (i.e. is not okay with her as she is).  The message she regularly heard from me was “You are not enough” and the message I regularly heard from her was “I don’t care about your needs.”  Each of us, by trying to defend our needs in relationship to each other, simply hurt the other one more.

If I were to write my real thoughts about these particular differences while dating, I would say, “I want to change for the better, she does not; I seek improvement, she seeks stagnation;  I am an optimist, she is a pessimist.”  In my younger years I would have pointed out the many Bible verses that support my perspective and shamed the other person into compliance.  I am quick to blame, Kimberly is quick to accept, so she probably did not have these thoughts, but she would be justified in thinking, “I accept others, he rejects others; I am patient, he is impatient; I see people as individuals, he sees people as projects.”   Thankfully, Kimberly and I respect one another and highly value honesty, understanding and acceptance.  I see real benefits in her perspective and see how I fall short in those areas.  She sees real good in my strengths and is grateful for it.

However, this does not change decades of reinforced feelings.  When these dynamics popped up, it was very painful for both of us.  For a long time, her perspective made no sense to me and my perspective made no sense to her.  When our needs were not in conflict, we freely expressed our love and acceptance, and so over time we became more trusting of each other.  That gave us the emotional space to slowly learn each others’ languages.  Most of this happened before marriage, and though our feelings still smarted a great deal, we understood our issues and were committed to working through them.  In fact we realized that in an amazing way, even our conflicting emotions were a great benefit to us and our relationship… but more on that later.

Pain Opens the Door to Love


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