Having Less Pain in Your Relationship

Saturday, Aug. 13th 2011 1:54 PM

Have you ever been upset about something your partner did? Who hasn’t? But since most partners are awfully hard to change (and since attempting to do so is usually a bad idea), it’s healthier for you and your relationship to focus on what you can control – your reaction. And it might help to know that it probably didn’t hurt as much as you remember.

According to a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, when we experience an unpleasant situation or hardship, we tend to remember it as being more painful if we expect to encounter it again than if we believe it to be a one-time thing. Jeff Galak, a Carnegie Mellon behavioral scientist who worked on the study, suggests that this is the brain’s way of helping us handle the issue better in the future. If we remember the first instance as terrible and therefore exaggerate how bad we expect it to be the second time around, it will actually surprise and delight us by hurting less than we thought.

So, by bracing for the worst, do we actually suffer less in the long run? I certainly believe this to be the case in romantic relationships. If your partner does something once, it’s highly likely that it will happen again. But by being aware of the mind’s tendency to exaggerate pain the first time and by bracing yourself for the repeat occurrence, you get to go ahead and have your reaction and then decide if you can deal with your mate’s behavior. If you choose to stay, it won’t hurt as much next time. You won’t be blind-sided, and your brain will be prepped to get over it more quickly.

There’s no need to wait until you catch your partner in action. Practice dealing with whatever possibilities you’re worried about before they even happen. Every day I work towards knowing and understanding my mate so fully that nothing she does could surprise me. I work to accept her and to make her feel comfortable so that she can be honest with me about who she is, what she has done in the past and what she might do in the future. I even prepare myself for future possibilities that she may not feel comfortable discussing. So, I’ve had plenty of time to think about and process what might happen and how I would feel about it. You probably already know more about your mate than you realize (and maybe more than you want to admit). Ask yourself who you know this person to be, what you believe him/her to be capable of and what he/she would do if you said you’d sanction anything. The answers will reveal who your mate is at the core – whether you like it or not.

Once you have a good idea what your mate might do, it’s time to decide if you can deal. Accept that what you think your partner is doing (or might do) is exactly what he/she is doing. If your mate walks out of the house, and you think that she is going to fool around with someone else or that he is going to spend money you don’t have, accept that this is exactly what your partner is doing. Sure, he/she may be doing something completely innocuous. But by considering the “worst-case” scenario, you have the opportunity to practice and plan your response. In many ways, the facts are meaningless. It is your personal peace that is important. If you are not at peace because of your suspicions, and if you cannot resolve this conflict within yourself, by yourself, leave. You’ll be doing both of you a favor.

If you can live with what your mate has done (or might do) you’re well on your way to suffering less in the long run. Know that it probably didn’t hurt as much as you remember (that’s just your brain playing tricks on you) and that you’ve practiced and braced yourself so that you can be a more Powerful Person in a Partnership.

Keep Rising,


Frank Love

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Leave a Comment: Let Us Know Your Thoughts

How to Gracefully Exit a Relationship

12 Comments on “Having Less Pain in Your Relationship”

  1. Martha Says:

    I am not sure about how to comment on this, but I am sure that I do not have the psychological ability to follow this method. Oh my, this would be like “laying down to die!” For me. Wait, let me think about this. Hmmmmmm. NEVER! 😉

  2. Janis Evans, M.Ed.,LPC Says:

    Hi Frank,
    I can see this working for minor things, i.e, lateness, household honey-dos not getting done, forgetting special occasions, shopping sprees, not cooking, or leaving toilet seat up. I’m not sure how healthy it would be to imagine the worst if your spouse, who has a pattern of affairs, doesn’t come home until the wee hours. Finding out that he had a flat tire might be a relief, but would it have been worth the unnecessary psychlogical turmoil to have imagined that he was having another affair? Neurotic or obssessive spouses may not do this with ease. And most of us committed/married people are a little of both, aren’t we? (smile)
    I do agree that’s it’s all about controlling our reactions to each other’s behavior, but . . . . sometimes we have to shake reality into our partners by saying, “Seriously?”, when they know that their pattern of behavior presses buttons and creates an on-going problem that never gets resolved. No, we can’t change people, but people can choose to modify behavior to break old destructive patterns toward making the relationship better.

  3. Rachael Says:

    Wouldn’t we be better placed to believe the best of our partners, and if we can’t or have no reason to, examine why we disrespect ourselves by putting ourselves through the constant pain of expecting or experiencing the worst of them?

    And so much lost energy expecting and planning for something that may not happen.

    As the wife of a recovering addict, if I believed the worst every time my husband left the house I would never give myself or him the freedom of trust. It took a long time to trust again and even though I know EXACTLY what he (or anyone else for that matter) could be capable of, I have to allow myself to be vulnerable and love and trust the best in him otherwise the darkness of doubt will destroy us and I will undermine all his years of being clean and being the most wonderful husband I could ask for.

    Expecting the worst, preparing for it and even planning how to deal with it runs too fine a line between believing it and letting the imagined actions affect our emotional state and our relationship. A story dwelt on long enough can come to be believed and if you can convince yourself of what your partner is up to or has or has not done, it’s not difficult to predict the negative interaction that will follow.

  4. Alexandria Jones Says:

    Hi I am a very sensitive person and after many bad relationships and spending a great deal of time helping others to be happy in life and in their relationships I have never been able to work out why my relationships were so unsuccessful. It had finally dawned on me that due to all the barriers I have put up over the years and the ways I appear to ‘learned’ to sabotage any new relationship I come across to men as needy and weak and that they are the centre of my life which is not true!! I therefore worried at the tiniest thing I.e him not saying good night on the text or by e mail. These barriers together with a feeling of not being gd enough have made me behave like someone I’m not! Fortunately I am now working through all this and am being my authentic self again!! The painful things I thought were huge have indeed turned out to be nothing at all!

  5. Sally Edwards Says:

    Wondering how many women they studied who have really amazing memories!

  6. Melvin Brown Says:

    Something my 20 year old son wrote this summer: “Directions To A Great Relationship” Go to Friendship Ave then drive to Great Conversation Blvd., turn right and go all the way down to Spending Time Street. Get on Memory Lane Exit then make a left at Emotion Connection Road. Go all the way down and make that right turn and you should make it to a place called Happiness.

  7. Linda Diaz Says:

    How the Hell would You Know Frank? You r a male! That is obviously a Stupid Study!
    My opinion is that women have amazing memories for Good or Bad! Males may be better at Dumping their families and not caring about the impact on their children! Or fans, This is the most Stupid Opinion and Post I have Seen!!!!!! Stupid Men like John Edwards have no conscience and I feel for his children. The Homewrecker he had a child with should be in Jail! The daughter will eventually hate her own Mother Cheating while his wife was about to die while the world watched. Stupid Study and Stupid Post!!!

  8. The Silverback Says:

    Again Frank, I have lowered my expectations and your blog has met them. Allow me to retort…
    First, my initial concern: I hope that others on here aren’t taking this advice because it is guaranteed to breed dysfunction. Secondly, let me address the men on this post…We are Men Frank…I think…
    No self respecting woman I know wants a man that sits around and, “worries” about if she is going to do something again, or what she is thinking about doing.
    Finally,what is really going on here Frank? Have we been reduced to focusing on what someone Might do nextg rather than what we need to do to solicit the necessary response to the proper stimulus? Folks, this is not complicated. 2 ears, 1 mouth…listen twice as much as you speak. Please apply my last entry to your life and I can guarantee that your drama levels will remain low…..
    P.S. Frank, your ‘Silverback’ card, if you ever had one, has been revoked (Never to be issued again!)
    a man that NEVERS bathes in emotions….

  9. The Silverback Says:

    Frank, in the reading the post again, I surmise that you have no idea what men of power can do. I feel obligated, no I feel required to help you because every man deserves a chance. Please review the 48 laws of power. Even my 21 year old nephew is familiar with this…

  10. Michael Lonergan Says:

    What study can measure the pain you feel? If you remember it, it is, after all everything is relative to your own feelings. Why is your mate doing things to cause you pain in the first place is a better question.

  11. James Says:

    Alexandria; Linda; Silverback, and Rachael make valid points Frank. We all come from different walks of life in all aspects however, I’ve learned through years of trial, error, self-inflicted mental/emotional pain, and other negatives that the bottom line to “personal happiness” starts with SELF. Not our mates, kids, jobs, money, material things, and other people. If I cannot learn to and/or make me happy FIRST, then how can I make my mate happy? The CHOICES THAT SELF MAKES, ARE A PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY and not the blame of our mates or any other human being.The ONE CONSTANT THAT NEVER GOES WRONG IS “GOD THE HEAVENLY FATHER”.

  12. When Partners Do Things We Do Not Like | Frank Love on Relationships Says:

    […] myself of ways my partner irritates me – masochistic or at least unromantic. I call it practice. And studious practice leads to mastery, which is […]

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