Two Things that are Essential to Any Couple’s Relationship

by Nathan Chua

I am not one to say that I have easy answers to all of life’s problems. I hope the title does not mislead you into thinking that there are only two things that you need, to have a better relationship. Please note these are essential, but not the sole needs of every couple, who would each have their own set of unique circumstances affecting them. At times, their struggles concern other matters such as responsibility, physical intimacy, child-rearing, money management or trust. For this blog post however, I will focus on two deficits that I find common among couples that I meet. Let’s call them the Two C’s of Loving Relationships.

First C is for Connection.

In a blaming and shaming culture, it is easy to fall into adopting a false stance, or a false self. We essentially try to hide who we are, in the face of the shame that we experienced, most often early in life. To minimize emotional pain, we dig deep into our comfort zones, where the need to express some of our more vulnerable emotions, is held in abeyance. We therefore lose that inherent ability to show our emotions as they truly are.

This inability to show authentic emotions is connected to how couples feel toward each other. Couples only see the angry side of each other. I often wonder how a weeping and distressed individual that I see in my office, could be treated so harshly by the other. It is rather simply because this helpless and vulnerable state, is not what is normally displayed at home. Home has become unsafe. The relationship is no longer as real as it had been when it was just beginning. The result is each partner just expecting the worse out of the other, as they only see their angry and resentful selves, with no reason to believe that change can come anytime soon. Connection is lost and will be hard to come by if vulnerable emotions are kept hidden.

Second C is for Compassion.

This should not be confused with guilt or pity. Compassion is a genuine concern for the welfare of the other. Caring enough for your partner, that the last thing you’d like to see, is witnessing him or her in deep pain and sorrow. Guilt on the other hand, is a focus on the self and not on the other, while pity is too distant, and denigrates the dignity of the other. Without compassion for the offended person, it will be hard to connect and heal the inevitable emotional wounds, that are bound to be inflicted in all close relationships. Compassion is the fuel that feeds forgiveness, and the glue that connects our souls.

How shame and blame affects us – Video

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The Role of Shame and Blame in Families

by Nathan Chua

It was in the 1980s when a game show called Family Feud caught my attention. It was a game of guessing the top answers that a survey of 100 people revealed. I think what added to the excitement was pitting one family against the other. I remember how this show became something of a cultural exposure for me. I was amazed at how patient and loving the contestants were with each other, even when their family member would give the wrong answer. Of course, there is no telling if the contestants were coached into how they should behave when such misfortunes occur. There are times when the family is split about which answer they think should be given.

I was amazed at how positive everyone was toward each other, even when a member of the family stubbornly went against the wishes of the others. I thought to myself, I find this hard to imagine if my family was playing this game.

I have met many who have shrunk from themselves, and made major life decisions based on the fear of being shamed or blamed by others, especially by family members. This can be even more difficult when decisions involve careers and marriage. It probably is quite common to know that someone makes important decisions, not based on what they want, but on what ought, or what was expected from them.

All this can be traced to the fear of responsibility. This is most evident in people who come to the counseling room with the same questions in mind, “What should I do?” “You are the expert, just tell me what your opinion is and everything will be fine,” are ways to escape responsibility.

In my experience though, this manner of seeking counsel for life’s issues, hardly offers any easy answers, to that thing that they most want to get from a counselor or therapist. In the end, people end up staying with the same issues of indecisiveness and lost lives, or lost selves. People have lost themselves in pursuit of what was expected of them. In exchange for seeking what ought, over what it is that they want, people lose their sense of meaning and purpose in life.

In Kierkegaard’s words,

“The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss – an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. – is sure to be noticed.”

Is it wrong to think bad thoughts? Video Version (With Voice)