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Couple Talk Walking out of the first interpersonal communications class I remember thinking, “Wow this class is going to be like therapy for me.” That is exactly what it turned out be. I can honestly say that Interpersonal Communications has been the most interesting and insightful class that I have ever had in high school and college. This class has taught me so much about each relationship I have in my life. The material that I found the most interesting and meaningful to me was the discussion about Developmental Stages. Before learning about this, I never really knew why I was attracted to certain people or why things happened the way they did. I have only had two serious relationships in my life. I dated a guy for about a year and a half and we broke up just this past May. Things started to become really bad between my ex and me and I finally couldn’t take it anymore. I started talking to my current boyfriend almost right after me and my ex broke up, but we didn’t start dating until this school year started. Learning about the different stages really helped me see why things between my ex and me went so bad. Also, it helped me see the difference between my current relationship and my last one. The first stage is attraction, which can be broken down into two parts; physical appearance vs. personality. These two different parts are two big differences in my relationships. I really did not think my ex boyfriend was cute in
2 the beginning. He became a lot cuter as we got to know each other more. His personality to me, at the time, was everything that I thought I wanted. So as time went on his looks grew on me. In the back of my mind though, as mean as this can sound, I always thought that I could do better in the looks department. It was something that bothered me about the relationship every once in a while. My current boyfriend however, I was attracted to the first time I saw him. I can honestly say he is one of the hottest people I know. So when we started talking and I found out that he also had an amazing personality, it was like a win-win to me. Another part in the attraction phase is the idea of similarity. My ex boyfriend and I had a lot of background similarities like religion, being Greek, family values, things like that. We also got along really well, liked the same foods, and had similar ideas about things. The only thing that we didn’t have in common was our age. He was ten years older than me, which is not that abnormal in the Greek community. With that age difference though, came certain expectations to act older than I really was. I think that because of those certain expectations in my last relationship, I wanted the complete opposite in my next relationship. So my boyfriend now being the same age as me really was a turn on for me. I remember him telling me one day, “That’ a girl. Way to be 19.” When he said that I was relived. I felt like I could finally act my age around someone without him judging me, because he was the same age as me. The next stage, Escalation, was pretty much the same for both relationships. Things between my current boyfriend and me moved a little faster then with my ex,
3 but I think that was because I was more attracted to my current boyfriend. During the Navigation stage is when things between my ex and I started to get bad. He moved into the “serious” phase of the relationship a lot faster than I wanted to. It was my first relationship and I was only 17/18 years old. Every time he talked long term like, marriage or kids, I just shut down and got scared. The thing that broke us was that I never told him any of this. I just thought that because he felt like I was “the one” that it must be true; the only thing though was that I did not feel the same at all. I never expressed any of this to him, so as time went on I just became more and more closed off to him and our relationship. I was basically done with the relationship long before I broke up with him. That made it so easy for me to move on to my current boyfriend. The last stage, Deterioration, didn’t really apply to my last relationship. Like I said, I was done with the relationship long before it really ended. So when we got to the deterioration stage I didn’t even want to try and work it out, I knew it was over. The developmental stages taught me so much about why I was attracted to two completely different guys. It also made me really take a good look at why my last relationship ended like it did and what not to do in this relationship. The stages let me look at my last relationship and now I’m ready to take a look at my current relationship. My boyfriend and I get along great. We bicker and argue about things but we very rarely fight. It’s the way we fight and how we go about it that makes our fighting a negative pattern for both of us. Like I mentioned before my current
4 boyfriend and my ex are completely different, especially when it comes down to fighting. My ex was very much a people pleaser. Anytime anything went bad or we started to get into a fight. He would back down and let me win no matter what; So because of that we never had a big fight. He never let it get that far. My boyfriend now however is not afraid to tell me if I am being rude or that I am acting like a bitch. He will not back down, but he will apologize when it is his fault. His brutal honestly with me was a sock at first because no one has ever done that to me, not even my friends or family. The more he did it though, the more I respected him for it. I have come to love the fact that he wont back down to me, it really makes me realize when I am wrong. During fights though we use two of the aversive strategies we discussed in class. Aversive strategies as stated in our notes are, “Used as destructive methods to force a partner into giving in or giving up what he/she wants.” I use the withdrawal/abandonment method. My first reaction when people are attacking me is to shut down and stop talking. Most of the time I ignore them and walk away. My boyfriend thinks that this is the most disrespectful thing that I can do during a fight. I have used this method with my family, friends, and my ex. So using it in this relationship was no different to me. The first time I ignored my boyfriend he got very mad. I didn’t understand why, until he explained to me that he thought it was so disrespectful to him and to our relationship. My boyfriend is a lot more communicative than me; I have always had trouble expressing my feelings. So shutting down for me is easy, where as he wants to talk everything out. I have been trying to notice and stop doing it as best as I can but it’s still a work in progress.
5 The method of choice that my boyfriend uses is threats. He uses them all the time when were play fighting which doesn’t bother me, its when we get into big fights and he threatens our relationship that upsets me. Like I mentioned above my boyfriend does a lot of the talking during our fights, he screams a lot and eventually at some point threatens our relationship. He says things like, “If you want this relationship to end keep doing what you’re doing” or “You’re about this close to being out of my life for good.” This never goes well with me because I feel like if he’s going to threaten our relationship he doesn’t care enough about it. So I usually start crying after he says things like that, and then he apologizes. Both of our aversive strategies are very unhealthy and hurtful. We are both trying our best to change. I am always taking things that he says or does and spinning them into my own thoughts. I am a very big user of cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortion as stated in our notes are, “Internal monologues, self-talk, and automatic thoughts.” It was not until we disused cognitive distortions in class that I realized I was using them, three in particular. The three main ones that I use all the time are tunnel vision, assumed intent, and magnifying. An example of me using tunnel vision is if he goes out for the night, all I see is that he stayed out later then he said he would, not that he came back to me. An example of me using assumed intent is when he asks a girl for a cigarette I automatically assume that he likes her and that’s the only reason he is asking her for one. I can’t think of a specific example of magnifying because there are just way too many to say. I consistently think that he is “always” doing something whether it is dipping or yelling.
6 Almost everyone has a negative schema towards a person that you know; it usual comes along with your first impression about that person. Negative schemas as stated in our notes are, “A set of summary conclusions that make up a psychological portrait of a person.” A negative schema that I have against him is that before meeting me he was what you could call a player or very “active” during his first year of college. I always joke around with him, calling him a “man-whore”” but it really does bother me that his past is like that. So whenever we get into fights or another’s girls name is brought up, I almost always say something that involves his past girls. I will say things like, “I’m not (her name)” or “Well if I’m not good enough for you why don’t you go be with one of your whores.” I am trying to catch myself doing this and trying to understand that the person he was before is not the person he is today. Also that he is with me for a reason and he really has changed. I kept a “Thought Diary” over the past couple of weeks including events that bothered me, upset me, or just about conflicts that we were having. I wrote about the event that happened, what I thought about it, and how it made me feel. After completing the “Thought Diary” I then completed the “Clear Thinking Drill.” The “Clear Thinking Drill” asks a bunch of questions to help you try and understand where the other person is coming from. It also helps you look at if you are using any cognitive distortions, which might alter how you perceive a certain situation. The first event that I talked about in my Thought Diary is that fact that my boyfriend always brings up his ex girlfriends name. He says certain things that she does or has. I always feel like he’s trying to bring her up in every situation that we
7 speak about. She came here to Queens and during the beginning of the year would not leave him alone by constantly calling and texting him. I knew that she still had feelings for him. This issue makes me very insecure because she is gorgeous, has a great body, and is Greek like me. I sometimes feel like they have a lot more in common than we do, which makes me wonder who he would be better off with. The Clear Thinking Drill helped me realize that I was magnifying the situation. He really doesn’t bring her name up every time, and that sometimes I’m the one who brings her name up just to see what his response would be. It reminded me that he has respected my wishes about not wanting him to communicate with her. Also that in the end he did pick me over her and he’s with me now for a reason. The second event that I talked about is that every time we get into an argument he would threaten our relationship. He would say things like, “You’re so close to being out of my life” or “If you want this to be over it can.” I definitely used assumed intent here because I thought that he said this because he doesn’t care about our relationship, and if it were to end it would not be a big deal to him. The Clear Thinking Drill helped me see his side of the story. He said that the reason he does it is for a power move. He thinks that by saying that I’m going to listen to everything that he says after that statement. What he doesn’t understand though is that I am so hurt by that comment; I basically tune everything after that out because I am consistently replaying that threat over in my head. I told him how I felt about it and we came to the agreement that this is just negative and unhealthy for both of us.
8 The third event is that he is always yelling during arguments. Like I mentioned earlier I shut down when I am being attacked, and I consider someone yelling at me as me getting attacked. He gets so angry that it frightens me because I really don’t know what he’s going to do next. During the Clear Thinking Drill I realized that I was magnifying the situation because he does not yell every time. I noticed that he only yells when he is really passionate about sometime or really hurt. Yelling is his way of coping with the situation just like ignoring him is my way. I do have to be thankful though that he does care enough to want to try and work things out, yelling or not. I have told him that this upsets me and he has agreed to work on stopping. The fourth event is that he dips all the time and smokes on a regular basis. These are two things that I am not fond about and do not agree with. He says that it’s his way of dealing with stress and that it relaxes him. I don’t bring it up that much because I don’t want to be the girlfriend that tries to change everything about him. I love him for him, it’s just that I don’t agree with certain things he does. The Clear Thinking Drill really made me realize that we are on two completely different sides of this situation. I think doing those two things is completely inappropriate where as he thinks there is nothing wrong with it. I cant be that angry about the situation though because he has respected my wishes about not doing it in front of me and telling me every time he does it. I defiantly used right/wrong dichotomizing here. I’m trying to understand that just because I think something is wrong doesn’t mean that the other person feels the same way.
9 The fifth and last event that I talked about is probably the one that upset and scares me the most. As I mentioned before my boyfriend and me talked all summer before we started dating. I went to Greece for the month of July, when I came back I went through an “I want to be single phase.” I had just gotten out of the relationship with my ex and when I went to Greece I realized what it was like to be truly single, and I loved it. So when I came back I told my current boyfriend that I just wanted to be friends. He didn’t take it very well but he still stood by me. After that we talked but not as much and it was friendlier based conversations. When I got to school and saw him for the first time all my feelings immediately came back to me and I just realized that I wanted to be with him more than I wanted to be single. Fast forwarding about a month into our relationship, I was looking at some of his messages on Facebook. I found a couple messages from this girl. He was saying that he missed her and calling her babe. The dates on these messages were while we were “just friends.” Seeing these messages hurt me so much because even though I wanted to be just friends with him at the time, he was still telling me that he missed me and that he was going to wait for me. I also asked him quite a few times if he started talking to other girls, I wouldn’t be mad at him I just wanted him to be honest with me. Every time though he answered no. When I confronted him about these messages he said that he just needed some girl interaction because of what happened between us, he just wanted a picture out of it and as soon as he got it that he stopped talking to her, and that he was just sweet talking her just to get the picture. He specifically said, “I went back to being asshole Kam, sweet talking girls just to get my way.” That sentence was probably one of the scariest things I have
10 ever heard him say. I thought that if he could go back to that person so quick and easily, how could I trust him if anything happened between us. I just didn’t understand how easy it was for him to call a girl he had never met babe. It made me question does he really mean it when he calls me babe. All these thoughts about the situation are assumed intent but a lot of it also has to do with the negative schema that I have against him. Reading these messages and hearing his explanation, “I just wanted a picture,” re a fermented that negative schema that he was a player and a “man-whore.” I still to this day don’t really know his real motives for doing that This event just helped me realize that I really do connect that negative schema about him to almost every thing he does. If I don’t work on trying to change it, it might cost us our relationship. Relationships are never easy; they really do take a lot of work. I love my boyfriend and I love being with him, which is why I try so hard to change and make things work. I know that our biggest problem is the way we fight. We know what hurts each other and how to push each other’s buttons. So it’s going to take some work, but I think that things will get better over time. The thing that I got the most out of this paper was learning about how I perceive and judge things. I learned that I tend to assume and magnify things a lot, which makes things worse. I’m trying my best to be conscious about those things and try to make an effort to change for myself and for my relationship.
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