The good news about frustrations in relationships

Written By Trix O’Callaghan (Counselling Psychologist) 

When couples find love and romance they often describe it as one of the happiest times
in their lives. We feel like we are with the perfect person, finally someone who make us
feel loved, who appreciates us and who we can feel safe with. We feel relaxed joyfulness
and full aliveness. Since it feels so good, we decide to make a bond.

When frustrations start to appear, we wonder what has happened. We begin to feel
unsafe and we slowly start criticizing each other. We feel that it is the partner who is
wrong and we long for them to change. We try to get rid of frustrations because we feel
that they shouldn’t be there. We often sweep them under the carpet and sometimes, if
we can’t get rid of the frustrations, we want to get rid of the frustrator!

Oprah Winfrey has released a special commemorative issue of her magazine which
celebrates 25 years in television and Harville Hendrix (the founder of Imago Relationship
Therapy) can be found within its pages. Harville’s first appearance on her show is listed
as #2 on Oprah’s list of top “Ah Ha” moments. Oprah writes of the appearance: “From
that day onward, I saw my relationship in a whole new light.”

Harville Hendrix says that when couples fall in love, they often don’t realize that they
have attracted someone who can help them to heal. Romantic love is just the glue that
gets us together so that we can get on with the real business of relationships – healing
each other and calling each other back to original wholeness. That is why we have to be
drugged in the romantic phase! The name of this drug is phenyl-ethyl-amine (PEA), an
endorphin found in our bodies in the romantic phase of love.

Of course all drugs wear off and when life shows up with all its stresses and strains, we
begin to feel despondent about our relationships and the frustrations we experience in it.
The good news is that frustrations are wonderful vehicles for change. Conflict is growth
trying to happen and opportunity knocking on your door. That is why your partner puts
in your face what you hate most, that which you are disconnected from. Nature wants
us to be whole again.

The couple have now entered the next stage in their relationship – the power struggle.
We become angry because we are hurt and we start to employ power tactics. We argue
and fight and that causes the space between us to pollute even more. If couples can
learn how to process their frustrations in a safe, understanding and connected way, a
double gift can come out of every frustration.

Here is how it works. When you are frustrated with your partner, that frustration is 90%
about you and 10% about your partner. It is most likely touching old stuff from your
history and triggering unmet needs from long ago. By working with the frustration, you
can bring it to consciousness. If your partner is willing to stretch to help meet those
unmet needs, healing begins to happen. Thank your partner because you hired him/her
with your 90%. Your partner gives you the key to your past by frustrating you.

The second gift is for the person who has triggered the frustration (the frustrator),
especially for those who were thinking just now, “See, I knew my partner is overreacting
about that – he/she has issues!” There is also a piece of gold hidden for you in your
partner’s frustrations. Your partner has a glimpse of the real you and is going to want
parts of you that you have lost. Your partner is really asking you to stretch your
atrophied muscle so that you, too, can grow and heal.

Don’t lose hope. If both partners are willing to take responsibility for the relationship,
you can learn tools to process frustrations and unwrap many double gifts. Your
relationship can then transform to real, mature love and true partnership.

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