In NYC therapist Orna Guralnik’s New York Times’ article “I’m a couples therapist. Something new is happening in relationships,” she introduces the concept of differentiating between guilt and “guiltiness” in your relationship.
She explains that experiencing guilt in a relationship can be beneficial as it is something that allows us to be aware of how we’ve affected our partner (other-focused).
While guiltiness is being preoccupied with how you are perceived. It’s about defending one’s sense of self, whether you are or aren’t guilty, blocking shame, but also blocking concern or empathy for others (self-focused).
People that lean towards “guiltiness” will tend to exhibit defensiveness in their communication style, and may find it difficult to take accountability or apologize when their partner expresses a need or complaint, because they are preoccupied with defending their “goodness”.
They may interpret their partner’s request for unmet needs as them failing as a partner or not doing enough or worse, not being enough.
And therefore they may rationalize, deflect, counter-attack, avoid, or explain their side as a means to not feel the feelings they would have to feel if they had to admit that you’re right, and therefore they’re “not doing enough” or “aren’t good enough.”
Recognize if you’re coming from “guiltiness” in your interactions and practice seeing your partner’s perspective without needing to make it mean that you are bad (or that you aren’t “in trouble”, or won’t get something taken away, or any other negative story that may be replaying in your mind and subconscious.)
Realize that there may just be a small tweak that could simply make your partner feel more seen and loved and has nothing to do with your worthiness as a person or as a partner. Furthermore, it wasn’t on you to have predicted it. We are all unique in how we want to be loved and no one can read minds. Our partners need to give us the roadmap to best love them. When they are expressing a need or complaint, they are doing just that. Can you receive it?
Remember, attachment styles are fluid and you can work to build a secure attachment and partnership.
If defensiveness and a feeling of guiltiness resonates with you, I can work with you to uncover where this is coming from and heal any activations or inner wounds that may be driving it, so that you can listen to your partner with more ease – with the ability to take things less personally – so that you can both be seen, heard, respected and supported.
And in this way you can spend more time creating loving moments in your relationship rather than perpetuating cycles and disagreements that drive a wedge between you two.
If you want to coach with me in order to connect and communicate with your partner in a more harmonious way, I would love to help you.
Let’s set up a consult and start coaching 1-on-1!