One of the most frustrating things to hear can be, “Well that’s just how she is.” I hear about those frustrations in my office on a regular basis. It’s an aggravation shared by individual women, men, couples, and other family members. So let’s dig in and take a closer look at what’s really going on here.
Why It’s Frustrating to Hear
If anyone has ever told you, “Well that’s just how she is,” it’s usually because you’ve opened up about a hurtful action from someone else.
Instead of hearing your pain and letting you know that they understand how upsetting it must be, it sounds as though they are taking the other person’s side. Your distress is quickly dismissed. And worse, it almost sounds like you’re the one with the problem. Not the person who refuses to see how their actions impact others. So you feel alone, unheard, and maybe even a little criticized.
Why It Causes Problems in Relationships
It’s hard to hear when your partner is feeling down. Because you love them, your first instinct is to help and protect them- sometimes before you even comfort them.
When you share that you’re hurt by your spouse’s co-workers or maybe even your partner’s mother, your significant other moves into “help and protect” mode. This mode is also known as “defensive mode.” Sometimes it may be hard to tell just who they are defending.
In the animal kingdom, when a loved one is hurt and in jeopardy, there’s no time to rush to their side to comfort them. They simply go into defensive mode, chase away the threat, and then go back to check on their loved one. So to help and protect the person they love, they actually leave their side for a bit.
Human relationships work similarly, though the exact play-by-play will vary based on what’s going on. Let’s say that your husband’s mother continually comes in your home and makes little snide remarks about how clean and neat things aren’t. At first, you brush it off. But over time, it starts to get old. And annoying. It makes you dread her visits, and you may find yourself becoming snippy to your children and your husband. So you finally mention it to him. And he responds with, “But that’s just the way she is. You’ve got to let it go.”
You feel hurt, unheard, and betrayed. It sounds as though he took her side. But to him, it’s different. He may get how hard it is for people to change. The more someone tries to change you, the more you tend to resist and stand your ground. It’s a normal human reaction. And after being raised by this woman, he knows that trying to go head to head with her will only result in her picking on you more, and saying even more hurtful things.
So he tries to go into “defend and protect” mode, chasing away the danger (aka her digging to a new level of hurtful comments when she feels ganged up on), and then comforting you once the situation is lighter (maybe after her next visit and he sees how you tensed up with each snide remark). But to you, his response is a slap in the face. You feel hurt and alone.
How You Can Move Forward
- Understand that change is hard for everyone. No one likes to feel compelled to change. Change is more likely to happen when the focus isn’t on them or their behavior.
- Focus on what you can control. There are many things in this world that are outside of your bounds. Focusing on those things only raises your stress and makes you feel alone.
- Avoid one-on-one situations with that person as much as you can. Having others around can keep some of their comments from happening. It also gives you others to focus on who are appreciate of you.
- Take their hurtful words with a grain of salt. After all, that is how she is, right? 🙂 If she says hurtful things to you, chances are, she says those kinds of things to others as well.
- Have something planned to look forward to after the encounter. From a nice walk around the neighborhood with your dog, to a frozen yogurt date with a friend, having something that will let you excuse yourself if things take a turn for the worse will let you stay in control of your emotions.
- Don’t expect others to come to your defense. From co-workers speaking up in your defense to your significant other drawing a line in the sand, instead of helping the situation, it actually makes things harder. Now that other person feels in the middle. Now they are expected to choose in an impossible situation. Not to mention, it sets you up for more disappointment.
As you focus on other things, you’ll find that the situation no longer has the same amount of control on your emotions as it once did. You’ll also find that the situation actually gets better. When you put pressure on things, the intensity continues to build. But when you focus on the things you can change, the other situations tend to shape up must more easily and much faster.