You come home after a busy/stressful day and when you get home, you are greeted by the sight of your partner on their phone, and they barely acknowledge your arrival. You sigh, drop your bags loudly on the floor, and roll your eyes and sigh again when you see the pile of washing up that's been there since the morning. You (loudly) make a cup of tea, and then (loudly) make your way upstairs to change, feeling increasingly frustrated and irritated at your partner. They may feel ignored or "got at" by the behaviour you showed when you arrived, and may avoid you or confront you angrily, prompting you to release the stress of the day, and leaving them overwhelmed and unsure what to do, or potentially releasing their own pent up stress. It's easy to see how communication can get muddled, leaving both feeling unheard and potentially hurt.
This, or something like this, is a common scenario that people bring to counselling - the day to day irritations and difficulties of being in relationships. The partner in the above scenario could also be a child, a parent, a sibling, but the feelings of frustration and disappointment are similar.
As toddlers, we are usually unafraid to make our feelings known, and we may even be able to ask our caregivers for what we need. As we get older, this becomes more challenging. This might be because we understand the vulnerability of asking for what we need, and we fear rejection or disappointment. So instead of being direct, we throw out a behaviour, hoping that our loved ones will decipher the meaning of that behaviour and respond appropriately. Unfortunately this usually doesn't work! A behaviour that means one thing on one day, may mean an entirely different thing the next day.
I encourage all my clients to try and develop self-awareness to help them identify 1) what they are feeling, 2) what they might need, 3) whether they can meet that need on their own, 4) how they can make a request of a loved one, 5) how they will negotiate if their loved one has a conflicting need.
Time and time again I hear people say they don't want to be "needy". Yet we all have needs, and ideally I want people to take responsibility for those needs and practise how they can articulate them, and avoid the trap of asking loved ones to be mind-readers.
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