This is probably the video I most often refer my clients to watch. Often times in therapy, people find themselves evaluating their relationships and thinking about whether or not they are worth “the price of admission”. Is being with this person worth all of the difficulty associated with the relationship? Sometimes the answer is no, but when its framed within the context of “the price of admission”, often times people decide their relationships are worth it. We all have a fundamental need to be loved, cared for, and supported.
A need to feel held, understood, and valued. Sometimes in relationships it can be easy to perceive small insults like keeping the toilet seat up as “he doesn’t care about me”, but often times these things are not done with malice, and with healthy communication, couples can explore these things and come to a healthy place with each other.
I think I most often refer clients to this video when they are in new relationships and/or have been hurt in past relationships. In a very real way, hurtful, unhealthy relationships can affect us in a way similar to PTSD. Some of the primary causes of PTSD are fear, helplessness, and a felt sense of powerlessness. PTSD happens when unexpected horrible things happen that shake your sense of safety. I’ve had to say to couples on numerous occasions “Don’t make him/her pay for the mistakes of (insert horrible ex here)”. When someone has a traumatic event, any kind of situation where a person experiences powerlessness and an unexpected threat to safety, the brain registers cues related to that event and those cues become triggers for PTSD symptoms. In a similar way, when someone has been in a bad relationship, in the future, that person may be sensitive to things in a relationship that might look like that abuse could happen again. In this way, for some people, leaving the toilet seat down isn’t just annoying, its “OMG, I asked him not to do this and he’s ignoring me! This is just like (insert ex)! I don’t want to be hurt like that again!”. Often times these feelings are subconscious, but the end result is getting upset over something that might not seem like a big deal to an objective bystander. Just like PTSD, these things trigger us to go into fight or flight mode and most people go to a place of punch first or runaway!
Sometimes these kind of things can happen not because of a previous unhealthy relationships, but because of relationships with parents. The important thing is that we need to feel loved, supported, understood, and cared for by our partners and/or parents. When something happens to threaten that sense of safety and security, this kind of thing can happen. When working with couples I like to use the metaphor of raising children. Children are difficult, when they are babies they make a lot of noise and poop everywhere! But with love and care they get better and grow into something different. Couples relations can be just like this, if each person decides that the relationship is worth the price of admission and resolve to stick with it. Every relationship requires work, but unlike raising children, we have the option to give up on them. If you can come to a place where you know your relationship is worth the price of admission, talk with your partner about your emotions and really stick with it. Maybe come to couples counseling. When two people decide they are going to commit to and nurture their relationship, just like they would a child, then despite the noise and poop, they will get better and their relationship will grow.