Imagine this; you have the opportunity to go away for the weekend with some friends. Being the courteous partner that you are, you check to make sure that there aren't plans already in the works, or that your significant other doesn't have a problem with you being away. Your partner tells you that it is ok and you happily go without a care in the world. You covered your bases and now you can enjoy the weekend. Maybe this scenario only happens once during your relationship, or maybe it is repeated a number of times. Whatever the case, fast forward ahead five or ten years and you have an argument or you are in counseling trying to fix some relationship issues and the fact that you took, or continue to take, these weekends with your friends comes up. You soon discover that not only was your partner not ok with you going away for the weekend, but anger and resentment have been harboring themselves away within the confines of his or her heart had have brewed themselves to overflowing.
Sound all too familiar? I believe that this scenario is repeated in homes everywhere. We choose to not be totally honest with our partner and then when we finally can't stand feeling abandoned or mistreated any longer, we blow up, or move out. I admit that most of the time our "lies" are innocent enough and we believe that they are told with good reason. We don't want to seem controlling or selfish to our partner, we think that they should know that their choices are what we consider to be bad, or we hope that guilt will eventually change their minds and they won't do whatever it is they want to do. The question that needs to be asked is, are we working to protect our relationship, and within our own integrity, or are we setting our partner up so we can be the better person, have something to hold over their heads, or worse yet, use it as ammunition in a full on relationship war?
Ask most people and they will tell you that honesty and communication are the cornerstones of a long and healthy relationship. You will also be told that attributes can be two of the hardest things to accomplish. When we choose to be less than honest with another and talk about our needs and feelings, we rob ourselves and our partner of healthy interactions. This isn't to say that a fight won't ensue by sharing that you think your partner is selfish for going away without you, but I feel it is selfish to keep those feelings holed up inside to only have them spew like a volcano at a later date. It is also possible that if you share your feelings, your partner will dismiss them and do whatever they planned to do anyway. The point is that as long as you continue to keep the lines of communication open and honest, working on issues and problems as they arise, there will be less chance that over time things will come to a point where they can't be repaired.
Communication with someone we love can be a huge challenge. Especially when we are dealing with a topic that can cause raised voices or hurt feelings. Here are some strategies that may help
A. Use "I" statements. "I feel like you would rather spend time with your friends rather than me" sounds much better and offers a place for discussion rather than "You would rather spend time with your friends than with me". The second example simply puts the accused on the defensive and offers nothing more than an opening for an argument.
B. Respect your feelings and those of your partner. Feelings are a personal thing and no one can tell you how to feel or denounce the feelings that you make public. Also realize that sometimes what you think you feel, may not really be your true feelings. For example, you may believe that you are feeling anger toward someone, when in fact; after talking it through, you realize that you are actually feeling neglected by them. Remember too that your partner has feeling and those feelings are just as important as yours. No one person can claim their feelings are more right, or more important.
C. Don't try and have discussions about feelings and highly emotional issues in front of others. Often times posturing and staging get involved in these situations and people say things that they don't mean or that are less than nice. Take a time out and set up a time when tempers aren't heated or privacy is available. It is imperative to honor that appointment. If you don't show up, you send the message that the topic and/or the person aren't important.
D. Be honest about your feelings. It sometimes hurts, it is often times difficult, but it is always a safer, healthier option than storing up all those feelings and letting them accumulate over time.
E. Be willing to compromise.
F. Pick you battles. We have heard this said when disciplining children, but it is true with relationships as well. Not everything needs to be an issue. Some things we have to admit will never change and we just need to get over it and move on. Be sure that those issues that are really important are addressed and forget the rest.
G. Don't assume. If it isn't said, no one can really know what is in your head or heart. Furthermore, just because something was once one way, it may not always be that way again. Clarify when in question.
These tips aren't 100% full proof, but they certainly will get you started on the way to better communication with someone you love.
Kim Dziobak is a personal coach dedicated to working with individuals and families to improve health and wellness.