The Art Of Relating

Christine Kniffen, MSW, LCSW

Therapist & Relationship Coach


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Trying to have a relationship with someone who is emotionally unavailable can often, unfortunately, be a catalyst for being unkind to you. We seem to lose all objectivity regarding the other person’s lack of accountability for making the relationship work, instead somehow allowing ourselves to take the blame. This happens because we so want the relationship to work that we simply are not thinking rationally. This irrational thinking tends to manifest itself around three primary themes. These include taking on the blame as an attempt to control the outcome, giving away all the power as to not rock the boat too much and finally, drawing sweeping generalizations as to our worthiness to be loved. This thinking and accompanying behavior all works to distract us from having to accept the fact that this is not someone with whom we can have a successful, fulfilling relationship.

I see it quite often in my practice. Clients take on too much of the blame for the troubles in their relationship. The other person is not acting right in some fashion, yet my client wants to somehow blame themselves rather than see the obvious problematic behavior of the other person. However, this makes no sense to the outside observer. The phenomenon of blaming yourself for something upsetting is more common that you may realize. It is in essence a subconscious attempt to control the situation by affecting the ultimate outcome. After all, if it is your fault you can then change your behavior and the other person will not be upset. Therefore, the chance of the relationship ending badly is greatly diminished. Ask yourself if you are perhaps taking on too much of the blame and cutting way too much slack towards the other person’s behavior. You cannot be so afraid the relationship will end that you take on blame that is really yours to take.

Another way in which we turn love against ourselves is to give away all the power. We may find ourselves willing to settle for crumbs from the other person, just so they stick around. We find ourselves walking on eggshells and biting our tongues, even if legitimately entitled to be upset by his or her behavior, just so we keep the peace and keep away the possibility of rocking the boat in an already tense situation. We are “white knuckling” it so speak, hanging on for dear life afraid to do anything that may send the other person over the edge. It is at this point that we have in essence given away all the power. We are often letting the other person get away with completely unacceptable behavior rather than risk the imagined overwhelming pain that would accompany the loss of the relationship.

The final way in which we turn love against ourselves has to do with the conclusions we draw as to our worthiness to be loved. There is a vicious cycle that is associated with gravitating to people who are emotionally unavailable and who are not capable of being present and accountable in the context of a relationship for the long haul. Someone who is emotionally unavailable is simply not going to be able to give you what you need to be happy in the relationship. Therefore, it is inevitable that it will not work and it will not last. Unfortunately if we have a pattern of getting into unavailable relationships we begin to turn accumulated hurt in on ourselves. We almost begin to feel as if it is our destiny to never have love and therefore, obviously, a reflection on our worthiness and deservedness. Naturally this is ridiculous, but as I can attest myself, it is a legitimate feeling we have as the result of our pattern of gravitating to the unavailable.

So, why do we turn love against ourselves when it doesn’t seem to work out? There is one powerful reason that we unmercifully beat ourselves up and give away all the power. It is simply because we have convinced ourselves that we have finally found “the one”. And, we must keep them at any cost least love slip though our hands never to return. This feeling, whether recognized consciously or not, is what drives the irrational thinking and behavior we experience when trying to have a relationship with someone who is emotionally unavailable. Real love and healthy relationships don’t produce feelings of unworthiness and they don’t result in being unkind to yourself by taking all the blame and giving away all of the power. If you think you may be doing this then perhaps you need to talk with someone to get some proper perspective and support in order to reclaim yourself and get back on track.

Christine Kniffen, LCSW is a Relationship Coach and Therapist. For a free consultation call 314-374-8396. www.christinekniffen.com.

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