What Goes Around Comes Around

I know it's a cliché, but one that's worth exploring when it comes to relationships. It's almost springtime and love is in the air. There is nothing like a new romantic relationship to get those endorphins firing. They evolved to provide a chemical hook to help us bond with a new love interest by making us feel good about them.

While intoxicated by love the feelings can make one feel alive, like life is worth living. Along with their upside, endorphins can also blind you from seeing aspects of your partner that would otherwise make you think twice about him or her. But while you’re under their spell, feeling invincible, you quickly paint all red flags green. While under the influence, one feels bulletproof. When the high wears off, one feels shot through.

It’s not like the signs are not there it’s just that endorphins are so powerful they can make it impossible for us to see what lies in plain sight and trigger us to rationalize and justify the most outrageous nonsense when we do see inconsistencies.

Take Martha, for example. She loves bad boys. Men with tough guy attitudes and behaviors. Bullies. She never considers that the behavior they direct toward others will come back on her at some point in the future, when she falls out of favor. Intoxicated by love she's rendered helpless. Or take Ted who finds nothing wrong with having dalliances with women who are in relationships with others--until his partner leaves him for someone else.

Back in the day, when I was dating, I had a “road rage rule.” Whenever I saw it, I would politely decline any future outings because if someone I was going out with was driving around threatening other people, I believed, and still do, that when they got upset with me, everything I had witnessed them do to others was headed my way. I can't witness wrongdoing, say nothing, and believe I'm not an accomplice.

I hate to be a buzz-kill, but karma comes up so often, both privately and professionally, I felt compelled to write something about it. Here's the rule: if you witness your significant other doing anything to someone else that you think is foul, don’t think you’re special, immune, or protected. Remember, what goes around comes around.

How Domestic Violence Can Effect Children

Children who experience domestic violence often grow into adults who have difficulty with authority figures.

It is important to remember, when frightened, as a first course of action, primates turn to each other rather than on each other. We do not burrow holes or hide or climb trees to escape. When we cannot turn to a bigger, stronger person for protection and support, it raises anxiety and fear in us.

Domestic violence poses a complicated problem because when a caregiver is frightening and violent it undermines our hard-wired need to connect. When our earliest caregivers are unapproachable we develop strategies to avoid them because they elicit disappointment and fear in us. One way to cope is to learn to become angrier and more violent than they are. Another way to cope is to flee or become avoidant. With no safe way to protest, children learn to “flee” by hiding their feelings out of fear of reprisal from a parent they believe will retaliate violently against them.  

Families have emotional display rules. I grew up in a household with parents who graduated from the “old school” when it came to parenting. Don’t talk back. Don’t argue. Don’t question, or I’ll give you something to be angry about. What I’m referring to here is an ass whipping. All that style of parenting does is drive behavior underground. It also forces the locus of control outside the child. Remember the preacher’s kid? That dude would behave flawlessly while in church or in his parents’ presence, but once church was over, and he was no longer within the sphere of parental influence, he’d run amok.

Parents are our first authority figures. As we grow older, teachers, bosses, and intimate partners become our authority figures. Children who grow up afraid of their parents, often grow into adults who learn to hide their feelings or act out behind their perceived authority figure’s back. That is not to say they don’t also turn into perpetrators of violence themselves, but my aim here is to highlight a subtler effect of domestic violence on children.

Many adults with the type of childhood experience described here grow into adults who find it difficult, if not impossible, to articulate their feelings. When avoidance becomes the norm, any number of compulsive self-defeating behaviors can be used to hide vulnerability. Passive aggression is a huge problem in a great number of relationships.

The inability to voice disappointment leaves one in a double bind. On the one hand, one can’t explain the problem and get the other person to change their behavior, and on the other hand, one also has to endure their own wounding negative self-talk for not behaving assertively, or what Buddhist refer to as “the second arrow.”

Unhealthy relationships are marked by the partners’ inability to voice displeasure, express uncomfortable feelings, and work together to solve problems. Relationships are doomed when the atmosphere is not conducive to open communication. It’s hard to solve a problem you cannot discuss.  In a healthy relationship, both parties are free to express themselves, empathy, understanding, and forgiveness are possible, thus enabling both parties to increase communication, resolve problems, forgive, and move forward. 

National Survey Children's Exposure to Violence

Effects of Domestic Violence on Children Who Witness It

Ages and Developmental Stages: Symptoms of Exposure to Trauma


“Endings are beginnings.” I hear people say that sometimes in an effort to provide comfort. As helpful as they can try to be you still have to go through the discomfort of letting go and all the painful feelings that ensue.

One reason endings can be so unpleasant is that you may have never wanted the relationship to end. You may have even found yourself blindsided by a partner who, unbeknownst to you, decided to disconnect. 

Even when you decide to end a sick relationship, the pain can be unbearable. You may even toss a grenade into your relationship to create a diversion to avoid your feelings and to flee. You are not the first person to start an argument or blame your partner, in order to leave a failing relationship.  

Why? I'm suspicious that you may be ambivalent and not recognize it, or recognize it and not know how to deal with it. It's hard to admit, “I love you, but I'm leaving.” Anger developed to help us hide primary feelings like disappointment, shame, and guilt. Anger can be used as a means of image control, according to Dr. Raymond Novaco who posits that anger used in that way may serve to display strength and resolve rather than sadness and vulnerability. Anger and bitterness can disguise love, fear, and sadness. Anger is a fine intoxicant. Loss can be one of the most painful experiences of your life.  

Feelings, no matter how strong, will not kill you. In fact, as Nietzsche said, “if it doesn't kill you, it will make you stronger.” The strength you gain from facing endings and the feelings they evoke can make future relationships more satisfying.  

There is a way out. By embracing your humanity, you can allow yourself to experience your feelings—the good, the bad, and the painful. In that way, you can not only survive the loss but also gain inner strength as a result. By adopting a humble approach, rather than dodging uncomfortable emotions, you can learn how to improve your connection to yourself and others.  

Relationships are not permanent. Your job is to love wholeheartedly. That's impossible to do if you are afraid or misdirected by your feelings.