Some of the patients I see have challenges with relationships. Sometimes, these challenges grew from the substance abuse, sometimes these challenges were a big part of what started the substance abuse. Sometimes, they have nothing to do with substance abuse.
It should not be controversial to say, but relationships come with disagreement— and that’s ok. In fact, it’s normal. But learning how to disagree with someone, particularly a romantic partner, can be a challenge.
In fact, most of us have probably been in a situation where we have had an enormous fight with someone over something trivial— like, for example, how to load the dishwasher. So, let’s focus on this for a moment.
We all have an opinion about how to load a dishwasher. The plates go on the bottom, they face toward the silverware, the cutlery faces up, the glasses have to be on the edges… you get the idea. More importantly, exactly how we load the dishwasher is probably not too important; after all, worst case scenario, the dishes don’t come out sparkling. However, people can get into knock-dawn, drag out, screaming-at-the-top-of-my-lungs fights about… how to load the dishwasher.
“Honey, I told you, the plates go on the back row.”
“NO, they go ON THE FRONT ROW.”
“They go on the BACK ROW.”
“NO. THEY. DON’T. FRONT ROW.”
Guess what…its not about the dishwasher. Its about the relationship, and the dishwasher is just a symptom.
Here’s the same conversation, with what is said, compared with a hypothetical set of issues someone may be experiencing:
“Honey, I told you, the plates go on the back row.” Why don’t you ever listen to me?
“NO, they go ON THE FRONT ROW.” Why are you being overbearing.
“They go on the BACK ROW.” You don’t listen to me, my parents never listened to me, you ignoring what I think is important, just like I’ve always been ignored.
“NO. THEY. DON’T. FRONT ROW.” My mother was overbearing all my life, and now you. All I want is the freedom to do things on my terms.”
The issues will vary, but, the problem of big fights over trivial things (like how to load the dishwasher) won’t go away until the underlying problem, or issue, is addressed directly. If you find yourself in this situation, take a step back, let everyone cool off, and try and address the actual problem… not how to load the dishwasher.