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Assertiveness - antidote to passive/aggressive cycle

Assertiveness can easily be misunderstood and has too often been used by some people as a thinly disguised way of getting what they want. I have heard people say "I am not being aggressive just assertive. You need to...." in a tone of voice that clearly says otherwise. True assertiveness is gentle. True assertiveness does not try to change other people or try to make them do or stop doing anything. True assertiveness does not try to punish anyone but instead lets natural consequences motivate change.
In my work as a counsellor and relationship coach I see two common scenarios playing out.
The first is where one partner consistently lives as the victim and the other the controller. This usually begins in the early stages of the relationship where one partner has very low self esteem and has very little belief in their own ability to take care of themselves. They form a relationship with someone who they see as strong and can provide, can take care of them and make the decisions for them both. As the relationship progresses over time, the "being taken care of" becomes "dominating and controlling." Then one day, often in later life, the victim either walks out without warning leaving the other in shock saying "I never even saw it coming" or in some cases ends up in an affair with someone who "listens to me and makes me feel important." There are some situations where a marriage will last a lifetime because there are very few arguments and shutting up to keep the peace is less painful than facing the fear of causing all the disruption and having to make it in the world on my own. It is common to hear the person accused of being the bully say that they never wanted to have to be in that position and longed for their "victim" partner to stand up and make some decisions for themselves because they got so tired of "being the parent."

The second scenario is where the relationship is a constant battlefield. The two partners are continually swapping between the roles of victim and bully. Every discussion becomes an argument and quickly ramps up from some minor disagreement into a major battle for power. Both parties accuse the other of being controlling. Both keep bringing up past unresolved issues. Both blame the other for the problems and therefore both believe that if the other would change there would be no problem. Both mistakenly believe that if they had married someone else then they would not have the problem. They constantly push each others' buttons and wind each other up. Each accuses the other of talking to or treating them like a child and both end up behaving like children by bickering and/or sulking even though they are supposed to be the adults.

In both of these relationship styles, one or other partner losses interest in sex because among other things sex is not a parent/child concept. A woman will generally have problems responding sexually when her emotional needs are not being met. On the other hand a man will often have problems responding emotionally when his sexuality is rejected. This usually aggravates the problem and becomes another source of blame and frustration.

Getting some assertiveness, boundary and negotiation skills and language is the only way out of these destructive patterns. Each has to stop trying to change the other and start looking at their own part in creating and sustaining the mess that they are in. TRUE ASSERTIVENESS IS GENTLE AND DOES NOT TRY TO CHANGE OTHER PEOPLE. True assertiveness does not try to punish anyone but instead lets natural consequences motivate change.
If your parents, for whatever reason, were unable to teach you these vital life skills, then as an adult it is your responsibility to learn them from somewhere else so that you can teach your children and not pass on the abusive patterns.



 
Until I hear
your No, I cannot
trust your Yes
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