Always Hardly Ever Is

Hilary Smith

Hilary Smith is a writer with Relationships Aotearoa and an experienced counsellor.

Do you ever take a deep breath and assure your partner that they always, without fail,do exactly the thing that is aggravating you beyond endurance right at this moment?

Have you felt that exasperation?  Do you know with absolute certainty that what ever else might change, the unpalatable behavior of those you love can be relied on to turn up again and again?

When you find "You always do that"on the tip of your tongue you're probably already feeling the familiar hurt or anger. You both know this scene by heart and the more often you rehearse it, the better you get at it.

It doesn't take long for "you always side with her"to expand into "you never support me". Words like always and never can sometimes act like a barrier. They can get in the way of noticing when something different happens. They can make the problem seem bigger and more overwhelming. They might even make it seem like the problem is too big for the relationship.

Before you know it you're feeling defeated and disappointed about your relationship as well as sore about the behavior. What ever the habit or attitude is, if it grates on you that much it's time to start asking how often always is actually happening.

Always hardly ever is. You could get things started by changing your approach. You might like to invite your partner to help you look for the times when always doesn't happen.

An invitation is really different from an argument. It helps you get on the same team instead of opposing each other. Getting alongside each other might just give you a different result.

It's useful to set aside any issues about who's to blame. Just keep asking when does that scene we know so well go differently? Are there times when it could start but it doesn't? Are there times when it starts and then changes course?

Once you find an example, or even several examples of the times when always doesn't happen, you start to have something to work with. You now know for sure that there are times when the two of you defuse the problem. And the great thing is, you probably weren't even trying.

Have a good look at those spontaneous successes of yours. What was happening? What encouraged you to ignore the script and invent a different way of doing things. The more you know about what each of you do and think and feel, the more chance you have to choose that new way when the old scene looks like starting.

You might like to let your partner know when you notice always starting to get into gear. You could tell them what you're working on to escape from that dull old script. You could even ask them for help.
When you notice your partner trying out something new, congratulate them. Even when it's not perfect, it's still inventing alternatives and the more inventive you both become, the less often always will happen.

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