Do you think it's too late for you and your partner to work on your relationship?
We are both in our late 30's, we dated for about 2 months last year and then reconnected recently. I am very much in love with her and have never been more willing to work, learn, and be more vulnerable. But I am devastated by our steady decline. I struggle with PEP, she struggles with PAP. We trigger each other quite a bit in different ways. There are major trust issues and we bicker constantly.
We just started therapy last week because we realized that we just don’t have the tools to communicate effectively and lovingly on our own and neither one of wants to walk away. We both want to succeed in this and to be in a happy and healthy relationship with one another. Is it too late? Has too much damage already been done? Do you have any tips on trust building? - J.G., Los Angeles
A: "It doesn’t have to be too late – if you commit to using the SCORE Process, right now, today, and from this moment forward, to stop your end of the bickering. Then, replace blame and criticism with acceptance and appreciation. Here’s how."
Thank you, J.G., for your heartfelt message. I can really feel both your pain, and the depth of your desire for a happy and healthy relationship. I'm so glad to hear that both you and your partner are open to couples therapy — that's a very good sign! It's also great that you can clearly see your own PEP and her PAP — it's so helpful, as we say in the video, to be able to recognize and name these things, this can help us to get less derailed by them.
So, I'd say you have a lot of positive things going for you, with all of the above, but, it sounds like you have a hard time day-to-day with what you describe as the "constant bickering". I agree with you, that's a major cause for concern, because it's almost impossible to build intimacy and trust in that kind of atmosphere. I don’t know exactly what your bickering involves, but in general bickering emerges from people blaming or criticizing each other. Of course that originates with some place inside of you that feels hurt, disappointed, scared, unseen, unheard, or perhaps blamed and criticized yourself. The problem is that by responding to those feelings in a bickering manner, you're creating a vicious cycle, a negative momentum — which it sounds like you’re well aware of, since it shows up as the steady decline you mention.
- Commit yourself to stop the bickering. Right now. Immediately. It takes two to bicker, so if you stop doing it on your end, the pattern between the two of you WILL transform.
- Use the SCORE Process — which we go into in detail in Video 1, and also in the eBook available from our website (just enter your email address and you’ll get an email with the link, so you can download it). When you follow SCORE, you can learn a lot more about whichever feelings are behind your own part of the habitual bickering, look into them more deeply, recognize their origins in other times and places in your life, and take responsibility for them.
- Once you do that, you won’t HAVE to bicker any more. As you SCORE, you can move from experiencing your feelings as anger, frustration, disappointment, etc. with your partner, to seeing the real, deeper, older source of the anger, frustration, disappointment, fear or hurt in yourself. Then you can work with those feelings on your own, or with the help of a therapist or healer — and when the time is right, you can share them with your partner as part of the process that YOU are working through. This will help you get to a much deeper level of understanding.
- The way to build trust and intimacy is by doing the opposite of criticizing and blaming — i.e., pouring out a lot of acceptance and appreciation toward both yourself and your partner. Obviously, each of you is doing a lot of hard work to hang in there despite all the triggers. So there is plenty to appreciate there! Acknowledge and thank your partner for everything you possibly can, as often as you possibly can. And acknowledge and thank yourself, too, and appreciate yourself, for how hard it may feel to do that – and for doing it anyway.
- If your partner is on board to try to follow this same program, SCORE and accepting/appreciating, then so much the better. It will certainly be even more powerful if both of you are taking on these new ways of being. Even if she isn't up for it, you have a lot of power. Your own withdrawal from the bickering and negative-emotion cycle will make a huge difference.
I know this can feel really challenging. For some of us, taking full self-responsibility for our feelings can at first feel like "giving up", "giving in", making ourselves into doormats, or resigning ourselves to never getting what we want. I speak from experience — I've been there! Again, do read the eBook, where I detail my journey from being a blaming, power-struggling partner who felt chronically emotionally deprived, to being a self-responsible partner in a joyful relationship. You can do it too, I promise. But it does start with making the commitment to SCOREing with your own feelings.
I hope this helps!