Disclaimer: As I stated at the beginning of my last article, Navigating the ‘Damned If I Do, Damned If I Don’t’ Dilemma: A Look at Men’s Perspectives… Before I am criticized, judged, blamed, or labeled a man hater, I want to be clear that I do not hate men. Before I seemingly sound as if I am siding with men, there are no sides to take in the therapy world. I am merely taking what I have experienced and witnessed in my office in the last 30 plus years working with men individually as well as in relationships.
The expression “Damned if I do and damned if I don’t” is a common idiom used to describe a situation where someone (male or female) feels trapped or faces negative consequences regardless of the choice they make. While the exact origin of this phrase is not definitively known, it often comes out of the mouths of men and the outcomes they are referring to are most commonly regarding a significant other.…at least that is true in my therapy world over the last 3 decades.
In relationships, when men feel like they’re “damned if they do and damned if they don’t,” they generally use various excuses or explanations to rationalize their feelings or actions. It’s important to remember that these excuses are not universal, and every individual’s experience is unique.
Here are some common excuses or justifications that some men might use in such situations:
- Fear of Upsetting the Partner: Stop avoiding or taking action or making decisions because you fear that your choices will upset their partner or lead to conflict. This is a cop out. I am guessing you withdrawing and being passive aggressive already upsets them.
- Lack of Clarity: Using the excuse that you are unsure about what your partner truly wants or expects from you will only make it difficult for you to act confidently. Not knowing isn’t going to fly. You know what your partner wants. I am guessing they are repeated it over and over again., If you really don’t think you know, ask.
- Past Negative Experiences: Using past experiences of criticism or negative consequences when you have “tried to take the initiative or make decisions” will not set you up to feel confident. You will feel and appear weak.
- Self-Doubt: All men may struggle with self-doubt, believing that they won’t meet their partner’s expectations or that their actions won’t be appreciated. Know this is real and all men do or have shared their own self doubt with you. Man-up and admit this to yourself and show your vulnerability to other men you trust as well as your partner.
- Communication Challenges: Just because you feel you have attempted to communicate or ask for clarification from your partner in the past but haven’t received the feedback or support you needed doesn’t mean you don’t try again. Communication is a learned skill and we all have failed in this category many times before. Try again.
- Lack of Autonomy: You feel you have limited autonomy or control in the relationship, making you feel powerless. You might be but there are reasons you feel this way. When you feel you have no control, this is the time to regain your voice and reengage in the relationship. Chances are, your partner wants a partner who has a voice, opinion, and engagement in the relationship. This is when respect is regained.
- Avoidance of Responsibility: In some cases, you might use the “lack of control” or not having
a voice in the relationship as a way to avoid taking responsibility for your actions or decisions. When a decision your partner makes goes south, it is completely their fault because you did not share your opinion, thoughts or feelings in the matter.
- Fear of Rejection: The fear of rejection or abandonment can make you hesitant to take action that might put their relationship at risk. Being fearful of loss, rejection, or not being good enough is a breeding ground for loss of respect and failure in the relationship. This fear can manifest in negative feelings from your partner of your lack of investment, engagement, commitment, and devotion to the relationship.
- Miscommunication or Misinterpretation: You argue that your partner has misunderstood your intentions or actions, leading to feelings of being criticized in the past. Although this may be true, your lack of communication only allows your partner to assume or create narratives that are not true.
It’s important to recognize that these excuses or justifications may reflect genuine challenges and concerns within the relationship. Most of the time, these behaviors or excuses are long lived habits that have somehow become part of your everyday mindset. Changing your mindset is not easy and it takes practice. It begins with the willingness to desire change. The desire to identify the negative thinking patterns what have caused you to live and relive unhappiness or the loss of joy in your relationship.
Effective communication and empathy between partners can help address these issues and create a healthier and more balanced dynamic. Ultimately, open and honest dialogue is crucial for understanding each other’s needs, expectations, and concerns in order to move forward positively in the relationship. Most of the time, it takes a mindset rehaul from both parties involved.
Navigating the Relationship Tightrope: Tips for Men Feeling ‘Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t'”
- Open Communication: Initiate a conversation with your partner to discuss the feeling of being caught in a no-win situation. Sharing your thoughts and concerns can help both you and your partner understand each other better. This means you do not use the excuse that you are not heard. Try.
- Embrace Vulnerability: Revisit what you know in how to be vulnerable. Determine what you know about vulnerability and how it makes you feel. Explore this and allow your partner to learn how and when you feel vulnerable.
- Active Listening: Encourage your partner to express their thoughts and feelings as well. Active listening can foster empathy and understanding between both partners.
- Dare to be Imperfect: Allow yourself to see your imperfections and embrace them. Understand these imperfections are not damning nor do they identify you. Share these with your partner and allow them to hear your feelings and thoughts about imperfection.
- Clarify Expectations: In many cases, the feeling of being trapped arises from misaligned or unclear expectations. Discuss and clarify what each partner expects from the relationship, roles, and responsibilities.
- Cultivate Empathy: Learn and know how important empathy is in a relationship. How the desire to know how the other person feels invites you to a new understanding of the relationship. How empathy can allow a new understanding of trust, value, and importance in the relationship without defensiveness, anger, and resentment.
- Compromise: In a healthy relationship, both partners should be willing to make compromises and find middle ground. It’s important to seek solutions that meet both partners’ needs. Realize you are not always right nor is your partner.
- Seek Professional Help: If communication and compromise are challenging, consider couples therapy or counseling. A trained therapist can facilitate productive discussions and provide tools to improve the relationship.
- Reflect on Personal Boundaries: Assess your own boundaries and priorities within the relationship. Make sure you are clear about what you are willing and not willing to accept. Communicate these boundaries and hold true to your truth.
- Self-Care: Prioritize self-care to manage stress and emotional well-being. Engaging in activities you enjoy and maintaining a healthy work-life balance can help reduce feelings of being trapped. Do not create your entire existence based on others needs and desires.
- Mindfulness and Self-Reflection: Practice mindfulness to become more aware of your thoughts and feelings. Self-reflection can help you identify and challenge negative thought patterns. This takes practice as well as a solid set routine.
- Challenge Negative Assumptions: Be aware of any negative assumptions you might be making about yourself, your partner, or the relationship. Challenge these assumptions and seek evidence to support more positive beliefs.
- Build Supportive Friendships: Maintain connections with friends and family who can provide emotional support and perspective outside of the relationship.
- Consider Individual Therapy: Individual therapy can help you explore and address any personal issues, such as self-esteem or past traumas, that may contribute to the feeling of being trapped.
- Focus on Problem-Solving: Instead of dwelling on the feeling of being trapped, focus on finding solutions to the specific issues causing these feelings. Break down problems into manageable steps.
- Reframe Negative Thoughts: Work on reframing negative thoughts into more positive or constructive ones. This can help change your perspective on the situation.
Remember that addressing these feelings will take time and effort. The key is to create a healthy, open, and supportive environment in your relationship where both you and your partner feel heard and respected and there is no need to battle for power or ownership.
Dealing with a relationships can be difficult and overwhelming but you are not alone! If you are struggling right now, let’s talk. You can book an in-person or virtual visit.
Email or call anytime to schedule an in-person or virtual session. (817) 701-5438 | firstname.lastname@example.org
CRT, CCDC, CACC | Counselor & Life Coach
Empowering individuals, families and communities to grow and heal through advanced approaches in Creative Arts Therapy, setting the standard for treatment, practice and training within the field.