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Unfulfilled Dreams: Will I Get What I Want?
by Steven M. Cohn, PhD

Dr. Steven Cohn

In my practice as a couples counselor, I have observed one common reason that some couples argue more frequently than others. Some disgruntled couples find themselves arguing because one or both individuals in the relationship fear their personal hopes, dreams, and aspirations will not be met so long as they are with their current partner. As time passes and dreams go unfulfilled, frustration sets in and these individuals become irritated and argumentative due to the untested belief that their partner is somehow holding them back. The result is that even the smallest thing can set off a disagreement with their partner.

Often, these disappointed individuals are not even aware that the frustration they feel is because they believe their dreams will go unsatisfied. Instead of talking consciously about lack of fulfillment, these individuals may begin to argue about who didn't wipe down the counters or who didn't take out the garbage. Since they don't really know why they are arguing, these couples don't come into therapy and tell me their fears directly. Rather, they come into couples counseling reporting that they are arguing constantly about the smallest matters and report further that they don't understand why they can't stop.

Although there are no guarantees, the good news is that for many of these dissatisfied couples, the destructive habit of constant arguing can be turned around.

If you believe that you might be arguing with your partner because of unfulfilled dreams, there are two things that you might want to try. The first thing to do is to get in touch with what is really causing you to become irritated and argumentative. Try sitting down with a piece of paper and write down all of your hopes and dreams. When you are finished, go back through your list and ask yourself this question about each of your aspirations: "Do I believe that I can fulfill this dream so long as I am with my current partner?"

After you have asked yourself about each aspiration, note which of your dreams you fear you won't be able to live out. Next, set an appointment for a couple's meeting so that you can tell your partner about the importance of each of your dreams. If your partner is able to hear and appreciate your needs, you might find that there is enough room for negotiation and compromise in your relationship to allow you to get what you want.

If sharing your personal hopes and dreams with your partner doesn't help end the arguing, then perhaps it's time to contact a counselor who specializes in working with couples.

If you are in a relationship where you are being either emotionally or physically abused, or if you are concerned that you might harm yourself or someone else, please phone the 24-hour-per-day Crisis Line at 215-7082. A trained counselor will help you through your crisis.

Dr. Steven Cohn is the Director of the Portland Couples Counseling Center and Co-Founder of the Irvington Counseling and Healing Arts Center. He specializes in treating couples from all backgrounds. If you would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Cohn or if you would like to request a complimentary brochure, please phone 503-282-8496.