Relationships are the spice of life but they can also prove challenging.
They bring us face-to-face with the parts of ourselves we’d rather keep hidden if we’ve been taught to be ashamed of them. Of course, we have the opportunity to see underneath the hood of another person to the same degree; that’s intimacy.
The whole thing is pretty intense! All the personal growth. All the vulnerability. However, it is absolutely possible for it to be a beautiful experience rather than an ugly one. In order to achieve the former, though, we need to cut out drama when we’re feeling vulnerable and stretched in favour of healthy, loving communication … but where do we start?
How to end drama in your relationship
Recognising and eliminating victim-perpetrator language
It all starts with identifying and removing victim-perpetrator language from these intimate conversations. Victim-perpetrator language is a toxic communication style that uses guilt, shame, blame and manipulation to create the desired outcome, especially when you want to armor up from feeling exposed in a relationship. Taking inventory of how we speak is critical if we’re going to remove this toxicity from our lives. We need to seek out and adopt new ways of communicating — including the language we use internally toward ourselves!
Here are some examples of classic victim-perpetrator language. Do any of these sound familiar?
- This isn’t good enough.
- I need more from you.
- I want more from you.
- You never do anything special for me.
- You always say you’re going to do it and then you don’t.
- You always forget about me.
- You’re not giving me enough.
- You’re not pulling your weight.
- This isn’t working.
- I need you to do better than this.
How did we get here? And how can we change course?
Your relationship profile
None of us can avoid it: We each have a relationship profile — a way that we choose to filter out the relationships that feel normal and comfortable, even loving, from those that do not. Think of it as a category that holds your patterns and preferences. The majority of those patterns come from what you learned at home from the people who raised you.
Conflict happens when our relationship profiles aren’t in alignment with our partner’s. Maybe one person wants to express their true feelings, and the other person wants to maintain the status quo of suppression and shame, for example.
Relationship profiles are powerful things, and they’re hard to disengage from, especially the most toxic patterns. That said, it is possible to address the parts of your own relationship profile that are no longer working for you. Ever felt like you were dating the same person over and over again or know anyone who has?
This is your life, yours to dictate. You might have come into this world through your parents, who gave you birth, but you don’t have to keep perpetuating the story you learned from them if it’s not making you happy — or from anyone else, for that matter. One way to turn inward and begin to reimagine your relationship profile is to shed victim-perpetrator language and adopt a more honest, loving, and true-to-yourself way of communicating.
A new way of speaking
We are all divine beings, gods and goddesses in a body. When we speak from our hearts, we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. It is from this openhearted, honest place that healthy relationship communication is born. Here are some examples of the kind of language we can begin to practice to shift away from the toxicity of victim-perpetrator language and toward loving communication:
- I feel …
- That makes me feel like …
- What I think I hear you saying is …
- This is hard for me to say, but I’d like to share X with you.
- I’m not sure how to say this.
- I want to share with you.
- I want you to share with me.
- Can we be totally honest here?
- This doesn’t feel very loving or kind to me.
- I want to understand.
- My feelings are my responsibility.
- I take responsibility for my part in X.
This new way of speaking starts with us, and it runs the gamut from how you interact with your partner to how you speak with your children, your extended family, your work colleagues — even to the salesperson at the shoe store.
The one thing about living is that we cannot escape other people, and truthfully, we aren’t here to escape them. We’re here to connect, in spite of the variable hits and misses.
Other people are the icing on our divine cake, not the source of our happiness, abundance, or emotional stability. These things have to come from within. When we change the way we speak and remove the role of victim from the conversation, we empower ourselves and our relationships to reach their highest potential.