Most of us are very diplomatic in the way that we raise and talk about difficult issues that may arise with our friends. We agonise about how we should talk about problems that come up between us, because we value our friendships and don’t want to damage or lose them.
Why then do many intimate partners not devote the same sort of care and concern when addressing the problems and difficulties that come up between them?
Perhaps the reason is that they have made a serious commitment to each other and therefore feel the relationship is not as fragile, and can therefore bear a certain amount of open conflict.
Or maybe it’s just a case of “familiarity breeding contempt”, and that irritation and frustration builds up over time.
Whatever the explanation, the fact is that our relationship with our partner is our primary relationship, the person we hope to spend the rest of our lives wit. Therefore if anything, it deserves even more care and wisdom then even our friendships.
It is my understanding that serious arguments and escalations between couples develop in the following way – one partner starts to feel concerned/worried/anxious/irritated etc about either the behaviour of the other, or something in their own life, and decides to speak to their partner about it.
Don’t Spring it on your Partner Unawares
This sounds sensible, but unfortunately such a course of action is rarely successful. Why? There are two main reasons:
Firstly, the person on the receiving end of the “concern” is not in the same emotional frame of mind as their partner who is wanting to raise the concern. They are “chilling out” or in the midst of some activity and project, and therefore not really ready or able to handle the urgency of their partner’s issue. As a result, they are very unlikely to react in the way that their partner is hoping. The person on the receiving end will either be dismissive or defensive or react in some other way, that the partner who is raising the issue finds unacceptable or offensive – and an escalating argument is likely to begin.
The second reason is that the person who is wanting to raise and talk about the problem is not usually in a helpful frame of mind either. They are often feeling quite emotional and impatient, and therefore not devoting much thought as to how to diplomatically raise the issue with their partner. Instead their concern is often delivered with an accusatory edge, which almost guarantees that their partner will react defensively and the inevitable escalation ensues.
So what is the alternative?
A “Designated” Meeting
One very constructive and powerful strategy is for the couple to hold a “designated” meeting on a weekly basis to discuss their issues and concerns with each other. In this meeting each person is emotionally and intellectually prepared to speak constructively, and listen deeply to each other’s concerns.
If you are “sick” of having the same painful arguments over and over without resolving anything, then Matthew Ryan may be able to help and guide you as to how to conduct such a meeting, as well as employ other powerful strategies to heal and transform your relationship.
Author: Matthew Ryan, B Psych (Hons), MA (Marriage & Family Therapy).
Matt Ryan is a senior psychologist with over 25 years of experience, and has seen great success in helping couples and families to work through their problems and difficulties.
To book an appointment with Matthew Ryan call 1800 877 924 or book online today!