Let’s face it. Most of us avoid the difficult conversations with our partners because we don’t want it to start another fight. Soon we find ourselves doing a cost-benefit analysis. Is the desired outcome worth the cost of an argument today? Some days we feel brave and start the conversation while bracing ourselves for the emotional consequences. Other days we remain silent and let the anger and resentment fester only to have it explode days or weeks later. This does not have to be your fate. Here are some helpful tips to start a difficult conversation.
Check Your Anger
All emotions are valid. If you want a receptive partner to hear your concerns anger is not the way to engage them. Anger comes across as attack. Very few people can feel as though they are under attack and remain open and responsive. Most people respond with defensiveness, withdraw, or counterattack. None of these responses will help you or your relationship. Instead harness that anger and allow the other emotions to come through. If you feel lonely, hurt, or disrespected; say so. Someone who is concerned about your well-being is more likely to be open to you if they can connect with your emotional experience.
Check Your Motives
It may seem obvious to you that your motives are pure. This may not be so obvious to your partner. Make sure your words are chosen carefully and respect those “hot buttons” in your partner. If you know your partner is sensitive to feeling overpowered then make sure you are doing everything you can do to level the playing field. If your partner frequently complains about feeling isolated in the relationship make sure you are paying special attention to ensuring you have included your partner in the discussion. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself “Will what I say next ultimately pull us closer together or further away?” If you want to be heard and understood make sure that you words give life to your relationship.
Check Your Default
If you are prone to believing your partner does not love you or wishes you emotional harm you may want to refrain from those difficult subjects. The two of you must work through these fundamental issues before you can have open and honest dialogue. This is also true of your partner’s default. If they struggle to find the good in what you have to say the two of your will continue to struggle with difficult conversations. Once you have cleared away the negative subtitles that are playing under one another’s words you will be free to create a new story.
Communicating in relationships does not have to create additional strain in a relationship. Some conversations are difficult to start, yet we still need to have them. Be brave and express yourself. Honest conversations are the building blocks to emotional intimacy.
It is painful to be in a relationship where you sit up at night trying to figure out how to feel connected again. The silence between you and your partner is uncomfortable and familiar.
Many couples come into my office with similar stories:
1. They are better friends or roommates than they are lovers
2. The kids left and now they do not know each other
3. They are living completely separate lives.
The sad truth: I can usually trace the disconnect back to silence.
Most people do not enter into relationships with the expectation to drift apart; they just do. They let work, kids, family, activities, and life get in the way of building the love they want. Couples struggle to juggle all of the responsibilities of life so something has to give. Unfortunately many people assume they have time later to work on “us” because so many other things are demanding our attention. Some couples address it in short spurts with weekend getaways or date night. Other couples assume this is normal in long-term relationships and allow life to take over. The silence is deafening and neither of you know what to do about it.
Address The Elephant In The Room
This may sound like common sense, but ignoring the problem will not make it go away. Talk to your partner about how you feel. If you are feeling disconnected most likely your partner shares your experience. They may even thank you for bringing it up. Just talking about it can begin connecting the two of you in ways you have not been in years. Start the conversation without anger or blame; attempt to find out why. Avoid blaming or accusations.
Develop A Plan And Stick To It
Contrary to popular belief marriages can be healed outside of going to therapy. Honestly, therapy is not a guarantee to save your relationship. If you are both committed to your relationship you can read books by reputable authors, get support from couples you respect, go on a retreat; whatever you think would work best for you. If you find that you need more professional assistance make sure that your therapist specializes in your presenting concerns, has a clear plan, and is objective. An excellent therapist for individual counseling may not necessarily have the training and expertise needed to provide effective relationship counseling.
Make One Another A Priority
In order to start the process of transforming your relationship you must make it priority. Many marriages fail because the relationship is secondary to any and everything else. What you feed will flourish, what you starve will die. It is hard to excel in other avenues in life if your marriage is failing. Take the time to invest in your relationship to ensure it survival. The returns on your investment may continue for years (even generations) to come.
It is important to remember your connection was not broken overnight and cannot be rebuilt overnight either. It takes time to find those things that bonded you two in the first place. Your connection will be rebuilt one moment at a time as small drops into a bucket that can fill to overflowing; What keeps you from starting today?
Do you need support for your relationship? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The most romantic holiday of the year is upon us. Some are annoyed with Valentine's Day because our culture is more about giving someone things than sharing love and affection. This does not have to be the case for you and your love. We can take back the romance of February 14th by changing the narrative. Here are some unorthodox ways to show your love this holiday.
Make A Declaration
Pick your medium. You can use chalk in your lover's driveway, beautiful penmanship in a real (envelope and stamp) letter, or a rose petal message at the office. Any way you do it make sure your message is sincere. Some may adore the message shared only between the two of you. Others may enjoy having the message read by everyone. The key is knowing your partner and making sure they are able to appreciate your declaration.
Get In Your Time Machine
Do you remember where you first met? Where you said "I love you"? Your first kiss? Recreating your firsts is one of the best ways to rekindle a spark in your relationship. If you have been a couple a long time you will have many memories to recreate. Tell your love how important they are to you be bringing back the moments that brought you together.
Learn A New Skill
Doing something new for your partner may show them you are willing to put the effort into making them happy. You can learn to dance, paint, or cook. The result is not as important as showing your partner that you are willing to do something new to keep the relationship exciting. This could be even more fun if you learn something new together.
Check Their Bucket List
Romance is not flowers, candy, cards, or balloons. It is paying attention to your partner and making their want a reality. Listen to your partner's dreams and see if there is one you can make come true. Asking your partner open-ended questions may reveal dreams never realized. Columbus is one of the best cities for hidden adventures. The key is to listen without preparing to respond and hear what their aspirations are.
Go Off Of The Grid
Find a quiet place for the two of you where electronics are not allowed. Turn off your phone, tablet, etc. You can retreat to a cabin in the woods or not leave your own bedroom. Give 24 hours of your undivided attention. Blocking out all other distractions and tuning into one another may completely revitalize your relationship.
This holiday does not have to be boring and predictable, laced with disappointment, anxiety, and regret. Many of the couples that come in for marriage or relationship counseling are struggling to find ways to show that they care. The best gifts are those of experiences. Columbus has endless possibilities. Let this holiday be the one you both will remember for years to come. Give your love a memory for Valentine's Day. Your relationship is worth the effort.