Relationships are wonderful, but can become fraught with challenges at the best of times; we have to manage our relationships with those we interact with on a daily basis. And oftentimes, it is the relationships with the ones we love the most that can cause us the most difficulties, and these are the kinds of relationships that this article will focus on. If you think about the relationship you share with your significant other, you may feel a number of ways about it; it may be that you’re not feeling very secure in it, or that you are not feeling very satisfied with it, or perhaps you feel you’re in a good place in your relationship because you’ve been together long enough for symbiosis to develop and bolster you both. But if you’re feeling in some way troubled about your relationship, to such an extent that it is weighing on your mind, and affecting your wellbeing, then this article might be for you, keep on reading….
The following suggestion can be implemented for any kind of relationship difficulty, in which there has developed a problem that relates to a breakdown in communication, and indeed, often, it is this basic thing that can ignite the breakdown of the relationship itself. I will use a specific problem example to attempt demonstration. Sometimes relationships start off well, or they get to a good place, however over time, one challenge relationships can face is stagnation. This can become stifling, and cause inner conflict if we feel we are simply existing alongside the other person, rather than wanting to be with them as we did once before. This becomes quite an unfortunate place for both involved because in this equation, one person can feel insecure, and the other discontented. The person who feels insecure will likely lose confidence due to the power imbalance, they may feel disadvantaged by the other person, because of their neediness, and it is understandable why they would. The other person in this equation will have their own difficulties; for them this relationship might feel suffocating and burdensome because their heart is no longer in the relationship. This can lead to frustration, and feelings of guilt and resentment which might manifest in anger towards their partner. This inner conflict may lead to feeling trapped and therefore, anxiety and/or depression can set in, which in turn affect the relationship and everyone in it, creating a self-perpetuating vicious cycle. So how might one find a way out of this most troubling of circumstances, or indeed any other kind of relationship conflict?
Usually with complex issues as the one described, there is a simple solution. This does not mean however that it is easy in practice. In the case of the above situation, and in fact most relationship conflicts, communication is imperative, and indeed what any relationship counsellor would attempt to facilitate. You might think that this is obvious, however sometimes we have a tendency to over think and over-complicate things when dealing with our own problems, thereby missing the obvious. It is therefore useful to hark back to the simple things, like how communication is key, but even more so, how the way we communicate in these scenarios is really critical. And to this end, the following tips are offered:
1. You may have done this already, but take some time for yourself and really think about what you need from your partner, this can be tricky, especially when you think about how sometimes it can be difficult to be honest with even ourselves. So to help guide you in this, try to think about what it is about the relationship or about your partner that is causing you to feel down, dissatisfied, hurt, angry, guilty, burdened, or whatever it is you’re feeling. Really try to confront this and drill down into it. Another way to do this might be to ask, what could he/she do to make me feel good in the relationship? Be ready to explore uncomfortable places; indeed, you may even concede that it is something in you that is causing the uneasy feelings, and not in them.
2. When you have an idea about what you really need from your partner and/or yourself, reflect on whether you feel your needs are reasonable ones.
3. If you feel they are fair, write them down.
4. Now think about why you feel you need this/these things from your partner and/or yourself, and write these reasons down as well.
5. Arrange to talk to your partner, explain what you have done (i.e., these steps) and ask them to allow you to go through each one, without interruption. Ask them to try not to take the things you are about to say personally, but rather to listen with the genuine aim of trying to understand you. Let them know that you will give them time to respond. If you have more than one item on your list, it might be helpful to move through all the steps for each item, rather than stating all of your concerns all at once.
6. When you have finished, ask them to take some time to really consider what you are trying to say and why you are saying it.
7. Now it will be your turn to actively listen to your partner’s response, without interruption, and with the sincere intent of wanting to understand him/her.
8. Hopefully this will enable better understanding of one another, and encourage agreed actions in order to meet each other’s needs. This may not happen right away, it may come after you each have had some time to process the discussion, after which you can agree ways in which you will attempt to meet each other’s needs.
This is one way to try to talk and communicate your feelings about your needs to your significant other, and you can use it with any type of relationship conflict. It may be that this honest communication prompts a change for the better (whatever that might mean for you); for instance, this might even be the end of your relationship (perhaps something one or both of you have been trying to avoid). Honest conversation requires openness and preparedness to any given number of outcomes, even those we may feel unready for. The main thing is that you have communicated your needs, and you have done so openly, honestly, notwithstanding the fear of the unknown, and by doing so, confronted the things that may have been keeping you in an uneasy and unhappy relationship, and therefore, state of heart and mind. Alternatively, there is the possibility that both of you may decide to work on the points discussed in order to improve the relationship, thereby enhancing individual, and collective wellbeing.