Do you sometimes treat your partner in ways you would never dream of treating a friend, even a very close friend?
Have you ever found yourself yelling, criticizing or giving your partner the silent treatment?
Do you later regret how you’ve acted?
Why is it that you can treat the person you love the most in this world the worst?
Why you act the worst with the person you love the most
Two important factors contribute to the phenomenon of sometimes treating your beloved so poorly:
1. You’re more yourself with your partner
Your partner is the one person who knows you, warts and all.
If you’re living together, or even just spending a lot of time together, they’ve seen almost everything about you: morning breath, an upset stomach, your weird quirks and the TV shows you secretly watch but would never admit to.
Basically, you’ve taken down the walls of pretense you’ve erected to survive in this world – to show up at work and deal with co-workers who bug you and to smile politely at boring parties until it’s safe to exit.
You’ve shown who you really are to your partner. You’re the most yourself with them.
So when you’re upset or angry at them, your filter is off (therefore, why you act the worst with the person you love the most). You’re less inhibited and much more likely to blurt out what you’re thinking or act out your feelings in a hurtful way.
2. Everything is at stake with your partner
When your relationship feels in jeopardy somehow, it goes straight to your core in a way that no other relationship does. It stirs up old family of origin stuff, even though this is usually outside of your everyday awareness.
Whatever way you got hurt growing up in your family will show up in your intimate relationship. It’s like an old injury that kind of, sort of healed but every time you press on that spot it still hurts.
So if you were often criticized as a child you might hear mild disagreement from your partner as harsh criticism.
If you often felt insecure as a child, you may anticipate your partner leaving you. Interpreting their actions as proof that you can’t trust them, or that you’re not good enough, or that you’ll be abandoned again.
Basically, whatever way (or ways, usually) you were most hurt as a child will show up again and again in your closest relationship, boiling down to fundamental questions such as:
- Is it safe to love?
- Is it safe to trust?
- Is whatever bad thing I was made to believe about myself or the world as a child (that I’m unlovable, that I am not ok as I am, that I can’t trust the people I love) true?
This makes the stakes the highest in your closest relationship, more so than in any other relationship in your life. Disagreements and misunderstandings can escalate and feel fraught with subtext very quickly – which is why you act the worst with the person you love the most.
Want to act your best with the person you love most?
To see how individual or couples therapy can help you, call (415) 310-5142 for a phone consultation.