Avoiding topics that you know you need to discuss is common. Unfortunately, in relationships it can be costly in terms of the distance it can cause between partners. Here are a few guidelines that may be helpful to use the next time you and your significant other decide to talk about an issue that you have previously chosen to avoid or deny in the past.
1. Give your partner a heads-up that you would like to carve out time for a serious talk.
2. Create three talking points (and only three!) and memorize them. Be able to make each point in one sentence. If you say nothing else, these are the points you need to make. Now you have a skeleton outline to help you return to the issues at hand if you get sidetracked.
3. Be concise. We tend to say too much. Say it once. Let silence happen while your partner processes your points.
4. Don’t be in it to win it. Be in it to discover how your partner sees it. In fact, ask, “How do you see it?” This attitude shift is critical. It’s not a fight. It’s a discussion.
5. Stay in the present! Do not bring up past transgressions no matter how tempting it is to zap the other person with old atrocities. That’s hitting below the belt. Defensiveness and anger will follow, and your talk will dissolve into an argument no one can win.
6. After you’ve covered your three talking points, ask, “Where do we go from here?” Be prepared with your own suggestions, but listen to your partner’s ideas, too. He or she may suggest alternatives that never crossed your mind.
7. If you’re reduced to shouting, be confident enough to end the discussion. Suggest you both think about what happened and set a time to talk within the next 24 hours when both of you have calmed down.
We’ve all heard the daunting statistic: 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. No one wants to be a cliché, and everyone wants to find themselves amongst the 50 percent that beat the odds. Although no test exists that can tell you if your problems are typical reactions to the stress and strain most marriages experience at one time or another, troubled marriages do tend to exhibit many of the same characteristics.
To see if your falls into this category, check to see how many of the following statements apply to your marriage:
Scorekeeping: The ease of give and take has been replaced with playing “Tit for Tat”, and you actively keep mental notes on how much you are contributing versus how much your partner isn’t.
Avoidance: Your marriage may be in trouble, if you both are using distractions to avoid dealing with core relationship issues. Do you always have one more thing to do before you can settle down, or is your spouse always hiding behind the newspaper, television, cell phone or computer? If yes, then it is time you both cut out the distractions and focus on your relationship, before it is too late.
Wheel-spinning: If discussions about the issues in your relationship seem to get stuck revolving around the same arguments again and again, it’s usually a sign pointing towards your inability to communicate thoughts and feelings effectively. Sweeping issues under the rug makes for a carpet that’s very difficult to walk on.
Lack of Intimacy: If you notice that intimacy between you and your partner has reached an all-time low, or is non-existent, you may begin to feel like roommates – you live together in the same home, but do not share the intimacies of a marriage. Intimacy levels directly relate to how well you and your partner are communicating. If you’re not talking, you’re probably also not having sex.
No Compromising: A major part of marriage involves trying to fulfill your partner’s needs while also making sure your own needs are met. It’s a lifelong dance, a give and take, and it requires constant communication. But if your partner continually refuses to listen to what you need (time, affection, sex/physical contact, help with children or chores), or refuses to share their own needs, this could indicate trouble in your relationship.
Power and Control: Partners who are rigid, inflexible and controlling often manipulate events to stop them from getting out of control, or making them feel threatened, uncomfortable or vulnerable. As a relationship grows and changes, the balance of power shifts, causing couples to realign their roles and responsibilities. Relationships can see-saw out of control when issues arise such as educational inequality, personal dominance and control, differences in earning capacity, a wife returning to the workforce and becoming more economically dependent, or an imbalance in the power and decision-making process within the couple’s relationship.
Poor Communication. Many relationships can survive infidelity, but most will break down because of poor communication, verbal and nonverbal. Couples who use vague and unclear communication patterns as a way of avoiding closeness and conflict set the stage for misunderstanding, frustration and hurt. A survey by the Australian Institute of Family Studies found that 70 per cent of people surveyed whose relationships had fallen apart listed lack of communication as the major cause of their relationship failure.
Recent studies have shown that five years after the break up of their marriage, 40 per cent of individuals said they wished their divorce had never happened. They believed it could have been avoided had they only recognized the warning signs.
When couples see the signs that indicate that their relationship is struggling or “stuck” and are informed about the causes of their relationship breakdown and given solutions for how to deal with these issues, they are better equipped to avoid their dysfunctional attitudes and behaviors, and thus can effectively work toward improving and sustaining their relationship.
The most common cause of relationship conflict comes from unrealistic and unexpressed expectations. Misguided assumptions pose the biggest danger when each person in a relationship brings their own, and sometimes conflicting, expectations to the relationship.
As we project our viewpoint onto others, we are assuming that they think and feel in a similar way that we would in the same situation, and we expect them to behave accordingly. Unrealistic expectations occur when an individual projects onto their partner what they want or need. Your partner cannot read your mind. When someone close to us does something that seems in deep contrast with the standards we have associated with that person, we often feel hurt, betrayed, angry and /or confused.
Our disappointment gets expressed in the kinds of phrases we’ve heard or spoken: “You’re the last person I ever expected to do that”, “You really let me down”, “This isn’t like you‟.
We cleverly develop a tunnel vision where we only accept information that supports the view we have of who we want that person to be. The truth is that people show us exactly who they are through their everyday behaviors. When we choose to break the illusion and replace assumptions with a truthful evaluation, freedom from expectation is carried with it. The opportunity to begin a more authentic and honest relationship is born.
Relationships end for a variety of reasons. The most common reason being that people enter relationships with certain expectations which, when unmet or unspoken, start and fuel the domino effect which may eventually lead to the eventual unraveling of the relationship.
How one perceives the state of a relationship is altered by various conditions such as age, past experience, and personal background. Differentiating between what is real and what is imagined in a relationship is tailored by these past experiences in life. An example is how many young girls grow up envisioning „happily ever after‟ with their “knight in shining armor‟. No one can live up to that fairy tale image. This unrealistic expectation quickly leads to relationship problems.
Both partners must be free to be themselves, to respectfully express their needs and feelings, and to know they are accepted for who they are.
It is important for both partners in a relationship to take responsibility for mutually expressing their wishes. A challenge for most couples is learning how to meet each other’s desires and needs, which usually requires compromise on each side. An important point to remember is that each partner may choose to cooperate – or not. If not, the relationship faces a difficult future. If the partners agree to compromise, the payoff builds cohesiveness and intimacy. This is the glue that holds the relationship together and allows for more patience and understanding in times of difficulty.