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Death by a thousand cuts is a saying so often thrown around. But there’s validity to it, especially when it comes to romantic relationships.
One papercut alone stings but is mild. Multiple papercuts would cause a different level of pain.
Papercuts in relationships are seemingly insignificant issues that start to build over time, causing irritation and resentment among couples. Essentially, the papercuts end up amounting to one big wound. And these wounds can signal the demise of a relationship.
Phoebe Rogers is a clinical psychologist, couples’ therapist, and relationship coach. After more than five years working with hundreds of couples, she has certainly seen a thing or two!
Watch: 3 dating mistakes women make after divorce. Post continues below.
Video via YouTube: Mary Jo Rapini.
As for how she would define a ‘happy couple’, Rogers tells Mamamia that it always comes down to if a duo who feels safe and secure in their relationship.
“There is a sense of solidarity and reliability, that they are a team and on the same side. Happy couples laugh, share experiences, and see the best in each other,” she explains.
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“A happy couple is comprised of two happy, authentic individuals who feel that the relationship allows them to be themselves completely. A happy couple also tends to have a shared vision for the future.”
When it comes to conflict in relationships though, Rogers says it can go one of two ways – either a big, explosive dilemma, or death by a thousand papercuts.
Here are the five most common types of relationship papercuts:
1. Criticism, often in public settings.
Interestingly, this can be one of the most damaging papercuts.
Take, for example, a partner trying to crack jokes in a social setting, but constantly using their significant other as the punchline or butt of the joke. After a while, that becomes stale and demeaning.
Another common occurrence is when someone feels their partner doesn’t have their back. This often happens in family conflict scenarios.
“It can be something simple like one partner coming home and venting – fairly and normally – about an irritation they experienced at work. But instead of being supportive or empathetic, their partner will not take their side, and instead question their actions. That doesn’t make anyone feel good, let alone supported,” says Rogers.
2. Not feeling appreciated.
Although anyone can feel underappreciated in a relationship, Rogers says that anecdotally speaking, this papercut is often felt by women.
“Not feeling appreciated can be really upsetting, as it then tends to lead to feelings of ‘I never get it right’ or ‘I’m never enough’. When you put in effort, it’s nice for your partner to acknowledge what you’ve done and appreciate it too.”
Essentially, this papercut is all about the mental load.
3. Being distracted.
There’s something to be said about being present. It’s only when you notice the presence is missing that we realise how pivotal it is to a healthy relationship.
“We all live such busy, distracting lives. There’s work, family, friends, dramas, and for some of us there’s kids too. Plus, we’re all constantly on our phones and on social media – no one is giving each other all their time 100 per cent,” notes Rogers.
But it’s when the scales dip that issues can arise.
“Yes we can’t fully engage and show complete enthusiasm for everything our partners say. But making sure there’s a balance can be really helpful. It’s often something as simple as inquiring about how your partner really is, how their day at home or at work really was, without launching into talking about your own day first.
“It’s about making sure we’re still curious about our partner’s lives and their emotions.”
4. Being dismissed.
There is a slight difference between feeling dismissed versus feeling underappreciated.
Feeling dismissed is a papercut that can be a lot harder to come back from. If someone feels they are not being communicated with, that they are being iced out and taken for granted, it can really wear them down in a relationship.
If one partner feels they’re being dismissed, they will then understandably overcompensate in response. But this can then be interpreted as ‘nagging’. Frustrating, we know.
“The issue with feeling dismissed is that it can quickly lead to resentment, and that’s hard to come back from. With not feeling appreciated, there is still emotion behind it – softness and tenderness for the relationship. They will want to be loved. But dismissal is really cold,” says Rogers.
5. Minor irritants festering.
Minor irritations occur often in relationships, says Rogers, but if left to fester they can become corrosive.
Maybe it’s a habit your partner has that grates on you from time to time, or something they often say, or how they come across to others. Perhaps it’s even something as small as your partner constantly leaving an empty toilet roll on the holder without changing it.
Little annoyances are normal. No one is sunshine and rainbows 24/7. But it’s ensuring these minor irritants don’t fester and grow into something bigger that’s key.
“I think we can bring up these gripes with our partner, but we have to watch how we bring it up. It’s about the timing and tone – so not addressing it for the first time during a fight, or being angry in our delivery,” says Rogers.
“If we do this, our partner will tune out and that’s never going to end well.”
Sometimes though, addressing our gripes isn’t the answer. Instead, if it’s objectively rather petty, it’s up to us to look within ourselves and our own reactions.
“Anger is a feeling for yourself, you often kind of have to walk away and self-soothe. Yes, it can be worth acknowledging, but it’s important to look at why you’re responding in that way and whether you’re projecting something onto your partner. Sometimes, those frustrations are simply just your partner’s quirks. And we all have them.”
With these five potential papercuts in mind, Rogers wants you to know this – it is possible to overcome these challenges. Just make sure you nip it in the bud before the resentment and anger starts to creep in.
“I think most of us have to remember that our partner is probably not trying to hurt us. For many of us, we need to remind ourselves of the good in our partner,” says Roger.
“Yes, the little things can really wear a couple down. But they don’t have to. Bringing back the joy, focusing on the parts of your partner that you fell in love with – that bring many relationships back to centre.”
Have you experienced a paper cut dilemma in a relationship? Feel free to share with us in the comments below.
Feature Image: Getty/Mamamia.