When I was a teenager, I threw a hammer at my sister, narrowly missing her head. Now, all these years later, I cannot remember what we were fighting about. What I do know is that when I was younger, I had terrible wounds. These wounds, such as feelings of being ignored, pushed around, not heard, not cared about, etc., caused me to at times to erupt.
Loving kindness is incredibly important in our relationships. It means we have an active interest in others, we are friendly and open hearted. We have good will and want the best for our partner and others.
What stops us from being kind?
Ultimately, it is our wounds that stop us from kindness because they can manifest as feelings and perceptions that trigger destructive behaviors. In my case, I felt furious and hurt. I lost control and threw an object at my sister that could have seriously injured her.
If you read about Gottman’s horseman, you learn that the four behavioral predictors of divorce are:
Those behaviors destroy our relationships. They are the opposite of loving kindness. When we treat others badly, it is as if we are throwing hammers at them. We are hurting them. We are destroying our connection with them. We are not creating love, but division.
What does bad relational behavior look like?
- Getting revenge
- The need to be right
- Punishing behavior
- Lack of self-control
- Inability to forgive
- Using our anger as an excuse to act out
We often look at our partner and think it is all their fault. Everything that is wrong, that isn’t working is because of them. I’ve done that, you’ve done that. We’ve all done that. Why? Because it is easy to experience our frustration. It is easy to see what the other person is doing ‘wrong.’ It is easy to see bad behavior.
It is also easy to excuse our own behavior. We tell ourselves, I acted that way because you did that. But excusing our bad behavior does not help our relationships. It keeps us stuck in a cycle that does not work.
Instead of excusing our bad behavior, we have to take ownership of it, stop it and understand where it is coming from.
Again, focus not on your partner’s bad behavior, but on your own behavior that doesn’t express loving kindness.
Look at yourself
Do you want to be that person? Are you proud of how you are behaving? Or is your wound so big that you don’t care? You want to cause hurt? Sometimes we get attached to the idea that our power comes from hurting others. That we have the right to do so. That our anger is what protects us.
Imagine a couple where one member taunts the other, or purposely tries to hurt them. What wound could cause this? The wound could be the feeling of being a victim. The feeling that you’ve been shortchanged by life or a person. That perception can cause someone to make excuses for their destructive behavior. It can also cause them to perceive current events from an old lens that is no longer valid.
Recently someone said to me, “He did that to hurt me. He did it on purpose.” Except that wasn’t true. It was simply a perception that came from an old wound and was polluting the current relationship.
When we are acting out, what feelings are we most likely experiencing?
How do we change this? There are many ways and paths to becoming better partners. These include:
- Practice loving kindness
- Be willing to look deeply at oneself
- Take accountability for one’s behavior
- Increase self-awareness (this can be accomplished by having a spiritual practice, therapy, WeConcile, among other ways.)
- Getting therapy
- Using the WeConcile app
Loving kindness in a relationship often doesn’t just happen. It is a quality we develop as we unravel our histories, our wounds, look at our behaviors, change our perceptions and our feelings. Loving kindness is a goal, something we work towards because we want to live with love in our hearts and harmony in our relationships.
To read my personal writing, check out Jennifer’s Blog.
You can learn more about relationships by reading WeConcile’s Blog.
Here is an article on How to Make a Relationship Last.
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