This post is dedicated to an awesome client of mine; I will call her Jill. Jill is funny, she is smart, she is beautiful, inside and out, but she struggles with something that is contributing to her relationship issues. Pride has become a big stumbling block for her. Listen, pride is not one of the 7 deadly sins for nothing! In Jill’s case, it causes her to put up the anger shield. When her boyfriend is not fighting fairly, she reacts in kind. She almost always feels regret afterwards, but, in the heat of the moment, she instinctively puts up the anger shield rather than allowing herself to be vulnerable. Jill and I have talked about being the change she would like to see in the relationship and leading by example, because she has learned that she cannot control anyone other than herself.
Jill is not the only one who struggles with pride. We all have at one time or another. The problem is that things rarely get resolved when we allow our pride to inhibit us from behaving in a way we know is most appropriate. The only way we can work through issues is to learn how to fight fairly. You can refer to my earlier post for details on how to fight fairly: http://yesmarriagerocks.com/mrocks/blog/item/175-5-basic-rules-for-fighting-fairly
I know it is not easy and we cannot possibly fight “correctly” every time, but let me point out what happens when pride gets in the way of good communication. Pride motivates us to protect ourselves from perceived attacks, disrespect or slights from others. We think we are protecting ourselves from getting hurt, looking like a fool, or feeling that we have been taken advantage of; however, we are not only not protecting ourselves, we are actually hurting both ourselves and the relationship.
When we let pride take over, we are robbing ourselves of the opportunity to have a meaningful conversation. We get stuck in a cycle of anger and resentment and we rarely resolve the issue. Furthermore, I guarantee that if you deal with your partner in a prideful way, you will not see a change in the behavior that caused you to put the shield up in the first place. In order to see your partner own his or her behavior, you must first create a safe atmosphere for them to do so. Believe me, if you come at your partner in a prideful way, you will most likely make him or her feel attacked, then he or she will either attack back or retreat. Either way, nothing is accomplished or you both walk away feeling resentful. All you have at that point is your pride and pride does not keep you warm at night, does it?
I am in no way suggesting that you do not hold your partner accountable for bad behavior. Quite the contrary! However, you must do it in a way that does not make your partner feel attacked or criticized. Also, you must remember that timing is everything. By controlling your reactions in the heat of the moment, you are not being weak. You are being smart. Why would you try and a tackle a major issue when things are heated? At a later time, when things are calm, you address the issue calmly with your partner. Remember, you are not each other's competition or adversary. It comes down to this. You either keep your pride or you have peace in your relationship, but you cannot have both, most of the time. So which is it, pride or peace? You decide. God bless.
Abigale S. Hassel is a licensed Clinical Social Worker, and individual and couples counselor. MSW, LCSW, OSW-C.
**The advice provided represents the opinions of the author. It is not to be considered therapy or professional advice of any kind. If you require such advice, you should consult an appropriate professional. Refer to the Marriage Rocks Website Terms and Conditions (link in page footer) for other applicable terms and conditions.**