The age old question that so many seek the answer to – what does it take for a relationship to truly work? As the famous line from Moulin Rouge goes ‘all you need is love’, however for the majority of couples this sounds great but it’s just not true. For both partners to be satisfied in their relationship you need to WORK, WORK and WORK some more 😀 There is a sinister reality out there in which so many couples find themselves completely unsatisfied and trapped!
The root of this problem can be unique to the specific relationship and it is imperative that couples are able to explore the reasons for their problem to find some healing. This may often occur within the relationship, however when partners work on their individual issues such as traumas, resentments, triggers etc. This will have a ripple effect and positively influence the relationship dynamic.
In this article we will not be discussing the core issues but rather the problem so many couples find themselves in- the comfort zone of not addressing the issue. Perhaps you have become so used to this feeling, it just feels like your lot in life, or perhaps there is fear of raising the issue because you love your partner and would never want to hurt their feelings. It could be that you have tried to raise the issue before, however this has only ended in voices being raised, egos being bruised and you becoming conditioned to tolerating the issue, rather than speaking up.
Whatever the reason may be, the result is the same. Two partners carrying on in the mundane routine, often appearing like the model couple to outsiders yet internally suffering in silence. When we live inauthentically with others we can very often find ourselves chronically lonely.
What can help couples step out of this habit? What will it take for us to address the issue at hand?
Here are five tips to get started with your partner.
- Talk about the real issue
This is often a challenge for us as we can become lost in the surface examples, misunderstandings and tit for tat. We may use scenarios to explain our feelings and our partner cannot understand us, because what they’ve experienced in these scenarios is completely different.
Instead of using examples, try and reflect on the theme of these scenarios. Do they all have a common theme? Perhaps each one left you feeling unseen, disrespected or insecure. Once you understand this theme you can discuss the feelings with your partner and look at ways to work on it.
- Share your vulnerability
Again, a real challenge is that often in our relationships we have become guarded. We feel hurt so we unconsciously begin to protect ourselves. This is often why we only communicate through anger. When I am angry and blaming I feel ‘powerful’ and it is less easy to feel hurt. Try to break through this anger and communicate from a vulnerable space.
- Own your part
There is no such thing as one-sided conflict. Even if you believe you have been a complete martyr in the relationship there is still a part you have to play. Try and acknowledge this and work on it. Taking responsibility for your part may help your partner do the same.
Acknowledging your part can be extremely difficult and this is often due to our upbringing. Our defenses are extremely high and even we are unable to break them. It is in these instances, where I suggest you begin individual counselling. If you feel your childhood traumas or the consequences of those traumas are beginning to repeat themselves in your relationship, then now is a good time to start your therapy journey.
- Practice empathy
Remember as you are suffering so is your partner. This is not easy for either of you. If you are able to practice empathy you are a lot more likely to develop a safe space where core issues can be discussed and hopefully be resolved.
- Maintain respect for each other’s stories
You are two people with two very different stories, feelings and outlooks etc. Your partner is not you, so do not expect them to be. Talk in a way, where you are able to understand each other’s stories and not disregard each other’s feelings. Don’t just dismiss them as wrong, because it’s very likely that they will be different to yours. Listening attentively will help your partner to share.
These types of conversations may perhaps be the hardest ones. It is also highly unlikely that the solution will be determined after one sitting but the healing is already beginning by starting the dialogue.
No one knows whether stepping out of silence will save your relationship. Knowing what the alternative is, it is up to you to decide whether or not you want to know you tried.