Frustrated That Your Partner Tunes You Out?By Dr. Margaret Paul
September 26, 2022
When your partner tunes you out, are you aware of your part in the system?
"Jacob seems so unconscious a lot of the time," complained Astrid about her husband. "He doesn't hear a lot of what I say to him, and he seems to forget a lot of things. I don't get it. He doesn't seem this way at work - just with me. It drives me crazy!"
I had been doing sessions with Jacob and Astrid, both individually and as a couple. I had noticed that Jacob seemed to be much more present and conscious in our individual sessions than in our joint sessions. Having seen this often between couples, I understood the system that was operating here.
"Astrid," I said to her, "as you know, Jacob comes from a very judgmental family. He learned early to numb out and go unconscious in the face of judgment. One of the things that goes on a lot between the two of you is you either feel judgmental toward him, or you verbalize the judgment. What are you aware of regarding your major judgments toward him?"
"Oh, he is inconsiderate and self-centered. He is stupid, unconscious and he doesn't care about me."
"Yes, and sometimes you verbalize these judgments and sometimes you just think them, but either way he picks up your judgmental energy. His learned automatic response to your judgment is to go unconscious. This is how he protects himself from the pain of your judgments."
Becoming Aware of the System
"That's really interesting! So, his going unconscious is as automatic as me being judgmental. I have such a hard time knowing when I am being judgmental. As you know, my whole family is judgmental, and I got used to it. I guess I'm just like the rest of my family."
"Yes, you learned in your judgmental family to become judgmental, and he learned in his judgmental family to go unconscious in the face of judgment. Your wounded selves each learned different ways of dealing with judgment - yours by identifying with it and using it as a form on control over yourself and others, and Jacob by resisting the control through becoming unconscious. You can't do anything about Jacob's unconsciousness, but you certainly can do something about your judgmental-ness."
"I guess the irony is that I judge him for his unconsciousness, but I'm very unconscious of being judgmental! I'm sure he doesn't experience me as being considerate and caring when I'm being judgmental!"
Each Person Has Equal Responsibility in Creating the System
The following week, I had a session with Jacob. I asked him to open to learning about his unconsciousness with Astrid. As he went inside, he became aware of the loneliness and heartache he always felt in the face of others' judgments toward him. He saw that when he was very young, he had learned to avoid this pain by numbing out.
Jacob was actually not an inconsiderate, self-centered, stupid and uncaring husband. He was a good, kind, and intelligent person. But he lost touch with his caring when his intention was to avoid the pain of judgment. We started to work on how to take loving care of himself in the face of judgment.
Jacob practiced noticing his pain in the face of judgment and opening to learning with his wise higher self about how to speak up for himself rather than protect with unconsciousness. Astrid practiced noticing her judgments and shifting her intent from controlling Jacob to loving herself. As each of them did their own Inner Bonding work of noticing their intention, their relationship dramatically improved. Jacob was delighted that Astrid was much more accepting of him, and Astrid was thrilled that Jacob was more present and caring toward her. They even started to feel turned on to each other, after a number of years of a non-existent sex life.
This relationship system, of one person being judgmental and the other being withdrawn or unconscious, is a very common relationship system. Many partners end their relationship due to this dysfunctional system. If you are in a similar relationship system, I encourage you to learn more about your end of this system, rather than just leave it. You might be surprised at the result!
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Perfectionism is a form of control. "If I am perfect, then I can have control over how others feel about me and treat me." Life becomes much easier and more fun when we let go of having to be perfect and allow ourselves to be human.
By Dr. Margaret Paul