Problems In Your Love Life? It’s Not Your Partner’s Fault

[ 0 ] September 16, 2013 |

Dr. Marianne Brandon highlights the most toxic assumption in romantic relationships and how to find the middle ground

I have been doing couples therapy since 1997.  That’s a long time.  So you can trust that I’m speaking from experience – experience from working with hundreds of couples over these 15 years, experience from my own marriage of 18 years, and experience from interacting with numerous couples in my personal life since 19……well, we can leave that year out.  But let’s just say I’ve been here a while.

Related: Acting Your Age Between the Sheets

So anyway, let’s talk about one of the most toxic assumptions that most of us carry at some point in our romantic relationship, and sometimes, we carry them for many decades.  And that is, that our partner is to blame for “it.”  That “it” can be anything – you fill in the blank.  Maybe it’s a less than satisfying sex life, or financial trouble, or your inability to get to the gym and lose weight, or the fact that you and your boyfriend still aren’t married.  The world offers us a billion problems that we can oh so easily hand off to our partner as their fault.  Our partners are sitting ducks for this kind of culpability.  They are intimately involved in our daily lives, and they do contribute to the trials and tribulations of living and loving.  But blame typically ends up being an unhelpful and even destructive force for your relationship, not to mention for your sex life.

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And here’s the problem:  there will always be trials and tribulations of living. Always. That is a part of being human that, like death and taxes, never goes away.  Now of course there are some people roaming this planet who truly have mastered the art of positive thinking, and they are so high on life that there is no need to blame anyone for anything.  I’m not speaking about those folks.  But then they aren’t reading this article (or writing this article) because the topic would never attract them.  YOU are reading this article because you know exactly what I’m talking about.  So back to my point.

Now I am not a Buddhist, but I do love that philosophy and I borrow from it in my own life and in my therapy room all the time.  And the First Noble Truth of Buddhism is this, “Life is Suffering.”  Now, I first heard that statement in a college comparative religions course.  And WOW did it irritate me.  What kind of religion, rather than offering hope, serves up that pessimistic piece of wisdom? “You have got to be kidding me” was my open-minded, all-wise, non-judgmental response. LOL. Then fast forward a few decades. No longer a naive young woman ready to take on the world, I now have lived and learned and experienced this planet a bit more. I have felt disappointments, loss, hurt, and betrayal. And I have witnessed suffering beyond my capacity to even imagine when I was a young college student – suffering in my therapy room, and anguish in the world.  And I get it. To be human is to sometimes experience suffering.  (I will stop here with this Noble Truth, but let me add that Buddhists have much more to say on this issue that is helpful and optimistic.  But that is also beyond the scope of this article).

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So, back to YOU.  There are things in your life that are not satisfying, that are disappointing, and that are hurtful. This is part of what it is to be human. (Of course, there are also aspects of your life that are joyful, beautiful, and loving.  But we aren’t worrying about those things right now). So you hurt. And because you are a human being and you have one of those “advanced brains” that we are all so very proud of, you are motivated – no, perhaps programmed is a better term – to create a story about all of your problems.  From an evolutionary perspective, creating these explanations for everything in your world is automatic, so that you can avoid harm and thus keep yourself alive long enough to reproduce. And I’m not even saying your story is wrong – what I’m saying is, there is a bigger story here, and it will serve you and your romantic partner if you are at least aware of it.

Related:  How to Nag Your Partner Effectively

So think about what I’m saying in terms of your smaller earthly truths, and then the greater human truth.  For example, a small earthly truth may be that your sex life isn’t all that you want it to be.  Your partner feels too self-conscious or threatened to venture into new, more creative territory.  You are bored out of your mind in the bedroom, and it’s your partner’s fault.  Now this is true, but to a point.  The greater human truth is that, if you weren’t struggling with your sex life, you’d be struggling with something else. Maybe even your sex life on another level – like say, maybe your partner finally does become more sexually open minded, but now she wants to swing! And you were totally unprepared for this turn of events!  Remember that movie Sex Monster with Mariel Hemingway? So hilarious! Go watch that and then come back to finish this article.

Ok, so I hope my point is getting clearer.  Life will not be without challenges. NOW DO NOT GET ME WRONG, I AM NOT SUGGESTING THAT YOU STOP WORKING ON YOUR EARTHY ISSUES. I am not saying don’t go to couples therapy, or to stop encouraging your partner in bed.  This is not a message about giving up.  This is a message about wisely putting your earthly problems into context.  And realizing that regardless of who your partner is, your life and your relationship will entail suffering sometimes.  And as perfect as your partner may be, he or she cannot remove that aspect of life, just as you cannot remove that aspect of life for them.  Getting overly focused on your partner’s contribution to your earthly problems will prevent you from achieving real relief – that is, a level of acceptance that exists beyond blame and enters the realm of a more tender, forgiving love and a more peaceful life.

Related: Creating Distance With Your Partner (Without Realizing It)

Dr. Marianne Brandon

Now you know there’s always a disclaimer. And for this article, my disclaimer is this: sometimes earthy problems are too huge to approach in a calm manner.  For example, if your partner is physically, sexually, or emotionally abusive, BLAME YOUR PARTNER AND GET HELP. Some issues must be approached in the more traditional blame your partner way.  Find a therapist by contacting your state psychological association, or locate a sex therapist at www.aasect.org.  The issues I am referring to in this article are ones that average healthy adults deal with in average healthy marriages.  And remember that this advice is NOT a substitute for therapy, or an assessment by a qualified health care provider.

OK, so that being said, your take home message is: you will be well served to find a very insightful middle ground where you work together with your partner to create satisfying lives, but at the same time, you do not blame your partner for the fact that relationship challenges and life challenges are inevitable, and if it’s not this thing, it will be that thing.  And so it goes.

Related: Dr. Sara NasserZadeh: How to Deal With a Selfish Lover (VIDEO)

To assist you in your efforts at finding this middle ground, may I offer you this lovely Buddhist prayer of compassion. As you read it, remind yourself of what you want to blame your partner for today.

Just like me this person is seeking some happiness for his/her life.

Just like me this person is trying to avoid suffering in his/her life.

Just like me this person has known sadness, loneliness and despair.

Just like me this person is seeking to fulfill his/her needs.

Just like me this person is learning about life.

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Category: Dating, Intimacy, Marriage, Relationships

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About Dr. Marianne Brandon: Dr. Marianne Brandon is a clinical psychologist and Diplomat in sex therapy through AASECT. Dr. Brandon is Director of Wellminds Wellbodies LLC in Annapolis, Maryland. She is author of Monogamy: The Untold Story and co-author [...]
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