Making lists. It sounds like such an innocent thing, and its something we all do in order to function and get things accomplished. But lists can have a darker side as well.
In relationships, people often silently add up their grievances on lists. These items can have a wide range of importance, from not getting a promised phone call to hurtful and angry words or actions. For many, the event gets swallowed but not forgotten. It goes on the little secret list in the back of the mind.
“What’s the harm in that?” you ask.
Well, actually there can be many repercussions from this type of list making. It means you are not communicating. You are withholding things from each other. This interferes with truly knowing how your partner is feeling, and at the same time causes a loss of the opportunity for intimacy that sharing feelings provides.
It removes the possibility of your partner learning something about their behavior that is causing discomfort or even distress, and prevents them from changing that behavior. The person feeling the grievance is not following up on the opportunity to learn something about themselves and why this occurrence is problematic for them. They don’t learn, and their partner doesn’t get valuable information.
“Well,” you say, “but sometimes these are such little things that I don’t want to get into a whole discussion about them.” If that were really true, then they wouldn’t even go on the list. They would occur, and then be let go completely, to fade into the distance.
The thing with lists is that as soon as one partner comes with a criticism, it immediately triggers the other person’s list, unpacking everything that has been building or festering. Even if you’re not conscious of your list, it’s amazing how quickly it rises up when you feel criticized or attacked.
Generally, lists are only produced for a counterattack: “Well, you did X last Thursday,” which brings forth an item from the other person’s list, and so on, until the entire living room is littered with accusations, and it takes until morning to clear them all up and stuff them back in the box, leaving both parties hurt and bruised.
Here Are Some of the Things That Are Wrong With Making Lists:
- They Use the Language of “You…” Instead of Saying “I….”
Using the latter is personal and intimate; it tells your partner your thoughts and feelings, rather than being an attack. (Even worse is throwing in the words “always” and “never.”)
- The Items on Each List Can’t Really Be Compared With Each Other
- They Are a Way of Changing the Subject
- The Issues on a List Are an Accumulation Made Over Time
Often a very long time – and none of these things are actually happening in the present that the couple is living in. They are just the refuse of old occurrences that have accumulated in the list making part of the brain.
- They Lead You to See Your Partner in Terms of Their Deficiencies, Not Their Positive Qualities
If you have to make a list, then make a list of the positive things.
So be careful with those lists. They serve no purpose. They, just like blame and guilt, are wholly useless mental functions.
Deal with things as they happen or let them go.
There is never any solution to “You did this” and “You did that,” as these things have already occurred and can’t be changed. They are just shadow impressions of the past. Don’t let them take over your present. That is all that is real!