How To Confront Your Lover

A love-life ‘confrontation,’ as I wish to use the word in this post, involves getting in your lover’s face and letting him or her know in a direct way that you don’t like something he or she is doing. Most of the time a confrontation is needed because: 1. what he or she is doing is hurting you, and; 2. he or she is too defensive or distracted to just talk to about it.

The problem with confrontation for most people is ‘too much’ or ‘too little.’ What I mean is, if you have a problem with confrontation you’re either afraid of losing control, or shutting down and getting overwhelmed. Either way, the love-life problem you are trying to fix goes unsolved. The ability to confront someone in a love relationship as a last resort is a very important love-life skill.

Confrontation is necessary when you have to ‘set limits’ in a relationship. Setting limits usually involves telling your lover in no uncertain terms that you will not accept his or her behavior any longer. It’s kind of like drawing a line in the sand. The important part is, you have decided to take action. You now have the firm intention to deliver a consequence if your ‘limit’ is not heeded by your lover.

If your problem is the tendency to go over board when there’s conflict with your lover, chances are you have an anger or rage management problem. This simply means you have problems controlling your anger. Whether your excess involves yelling and screaming, destruction of objects, threats of physical violence, or actual physical violence, you’ve lost control to various degrees.

The relationship between your thinking mind and your emotions should be of particular interest to you. Impulsive emotional reactions are usually devoid of thought. There is usually little or no thought between something that stimulates your anger and the impulse to act on the feelings. If you know this about yourself, you’ll probably try to avoid confrontation so that you don’t lose control. A good emergency move but not a very good long-term solution.

A better solution involves learning how to ‘think’ before you act. One common way to begin inserting thought before reaction is to create a way to remind yourself to think before you act. Something you see or do that distracts you long enough to remind you to think about what you are going to do before you do it. The traditional form of this is the old count to 10 or go for a walk method. Other people use an object of some kind to remind themselves to ‘stop.’ Remember, this is the kind of problem that starts to get better when you recognize it as a problem and take it seriously.

If your problem is a tendency to ‘under-react’ when in conflict with a lover, you tend to shy away from confrontation. This is the ‘don’t make waves’ method of handling love-life conflict. Somewhere along the line you learned that conflict is bad and should be avoided at all costs. You may have witnessed conflict growing up that was dangerous and damaging. Alternately, you may have grown up in a home where there never was open conflict so it feels overwhelming or foreign to you. Handling your emotions and the emotions of a lover is something you now have to learn in adulthood.

If you are an avoiding person, you’ll have to get used to approaching emotional situations without ‘over-analyzing’ or ‘over-thinking’ them. Too much worry and obsessive thinking about consequences is enough to paralyze a person and distort the reality of what you’ll experience. Learning that you can have an appropriate impact on your lover’s behavior especially when he or she is doing something hurtful is necessary for a healthy love-life.

So you need to confront your lover. He or she is doing something hurtful in your relationship. You’ve tried talking about it without success. So you’ve decided that a confrontation is needed. You don’t really have a choice. You’ve already tried ignoring it. The first step is to decide to do it. This you’ve already done. OK. The next step is to imagine yourself doing it. Decide upon what you need to say and why. Certainty here is important. When a confrontation in love is necessary, you have to stick with what you ‘know’ has been happening. If what has happened has hurt you that is a fact that should not be explained away by you or your lover.

The objective of a lover’s confrontation is to get at the ‘truth.’ To bring the truth out of the closet so to speak. You are trying to decide whether to stay or go. It’s that important. So you pick a time and place to do this that’s private without interruption. There are always three ways a confrontation can go. The best outcome is, the truth comes out with little or no resistance. There is vulnerability and sincere apology because you both want to keep the relationship. You both acknowledge the extent of your individual responsibility whatever it is, and both of you work on repairing the damage to your love relationship.

The other two outcomes are worse. One even more than the other. Your confrontation could be met with resistance, denial, anger, or a refusal to change. You know now that nothing is going to be different. You decide to leave the relationship for your own sake. Basically, you are saving yourself from a love relationship that would only cause you pain. The good news is, you get out now and you begin your repair. You learn from the experience so at some point in the future you’ll be able to be in love wiser and have a better love relationship.

If you decide to stay in the relationship when you know in your heart that it will never get better, you are sacrificing yourself.  This outcome means you have retreated back to trying to ignore or distract yourself away from what is happening in your love-life. In the short-term, some people are better at this than others. Regardless, it always involves putting off an ending until you’re convinced you can’t stay any longer. The downside of course are painful feelings, wasted time, and the potential for a healthier love in your life. Not to mention the toll this kind of thing can take on your physical and emotional health.

By the way, if you are in a situation where you are confronting your lover (or trying to) over and over again, that’s a pretty certain sign of an unhealthy relationship. You don’t really want to make confrontation a way of communicating to someone you love. Confrontation is a tool that should be used only as a last resort. When trying to talk and change the relationship has failed. When you really have to get your lover’s undivided attention.

If you have an experience to share leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you. Dr. T. Jordan






Dr. Jordan

Dr. Thomas Jordan is a clinical psychologist, certified interpersonal psychoanalyst, author, professor, and love life researcher.

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