Couples

What To Do If Your Partner Has Become Your Adversary

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In the early stages of a romantic relationship people tend to believe they’ve found the partner of their dreams, the solution to all their problems, the sought after entity that will finally fulfill all their wants and needs. But before long fantasy makes way for reality. Conflict starts to rear its ugly head. The magic slowly dissipates and that sense of unity, of a perfect fit, of shared purpose, is replaced by an adversarial outlook. The relationship becomes a power grab dominated not by the desire to make each other happy but by the desire to amass and maintain control, to get personal needs met at all costs.

Partners start to make each other suffer in ways small and big. But with the narcissistic adversarial attitude in place recognizing the suffering of the other is virtually impossible and recognizing one’s personal contribution to that suffering is virtually impossible. Each is more concerned with the ‘egotistical’, ‘hateful’, ‘spiteful’, ‘vengeful’, ‘mean’ other. In this framework the desire to punish the ‘evildoer’ for wrongs seems justified. The cycle of mutual suffering continues as each projects responsibility for any and all wrongdoing onto the other. Each holds tightly to a preferred narrative of personal innocence where the adversarial nature of the relationship is entirely the result of the partner’s actions.

What to do if your partner has become your adversary is to stop projecting all responsibility for the current state of affairs onto your partner and to clearly recognize that he or she is and has been suffering. Your vision in this regard is clouded since you are being made to suffer yourself. Your own suffering is taking precedence over other considerations. What we have to remember is that any time someone makes us suffer it’s because this person is suffering. You’ve been making your partner suffer because you’re suffering just like your partner has been making you suffer because he or she is suffering. Happy people don’t usually make others suffer, they make others feel happy. We project that which is inside of us, the good and the bad, the desirable and the undesirable.

When you clearly recognize that your partner is suffering the path forward becomes clear and obvious. This is the person you’ve chosen to spend your life with, the person you care deeply about, the person you’ve promised to stand beside through thick and thin. The path forward is to isolate and help reduce the various sources of suffering in your partner. The path forward is to expand that bubble of human narcissism outwards so that it ceases to only encase you, to encase your thwarted wants and needs, your resentments and hurts. Let it once again encase your partner. This is the fastest and best way to push back against the adversarial attitude that has taken hold of the relationship, the fastest way to get back on the same side against a mutual foe, a foe called suffering.

Right now it doesn’t matter where the suffering originated, it doesn’t matter who carries more responsibility for it. The only thing that matters is that it exists. Undue harm is being perpetrated upon someone close to you. If you decide to start reaching out with the authentic intention to alleviate that suffering good things will happen. Before long your partner will respond in a different way than the defensive/offensive approach that has probably come to define your relationship. It’s time to switch sides, to stop playing for and with suffering and to start teaming up with your partner in order to defeat it.

Greetings I'm Michael, the owner of Evolution Counseling and the author of all the articles on this site. I got my master's degree from Seattle University in community mental heath counseling and have committed myself to advancing my knowledge of psychology and my own theoretical system ever since. The content here represents my personal evolution of thought. I've also become a big fan of photography and I take all the pictures you'll see at the top of articles. We don't advertise to get traffic so this site's increasing popularity is grassroots, it's based on you and people like you deciding for yourselves that these articles are a good source for psychological insight and that they're worth sharing with others.