“I trust the intelligence within me. Whatever is happening out there is only a mirror of my own limited thinking.” Louise Hayes

Often when we are in an argument with our intimate partner, we find that trying to be heard is the hardest part. We want them to understand us so desperately that we get louder and more dramatic, often finding ourselves saying things that are hurtful and perhaps even untrue. We believe that the difficulty comes from our partner, when in reality, it is coming from within us.

Healthy relationships take work. Sitting down with our partners to discuss the issues can quickly turn into a blame session, and can quickly become unhealthy without some basic communication techniques and an understanding of our past relationship issues.

In healthy relationships, couples want each other to feel comfortable. We are interested in making each other’s lives better and want to hear how we can do that, rather than constantly hearing “What about me?” In unhealthy relationships, each of us wants what we want with little interest in what the other person finds necessary. We use blame, such as “You are doing this to me,” “You make me feel like…,” or “Because of you….” When we are in healthy relationships, we say things like “I am feeling sad because you didn’t include me in the decision making,” or “I am not feeling good about you making plans with your sister before confirming with me first”.  The other partner listens with empathy and curiosity in order to understand.

Healthy couples are a partnership by definition. They act like a couple, both privately and in public. They are not afraid to let others know that they are working together for the benefit of building a good life. They confide in each other, make decisions together, let each other in on their daily activities, and are available to take calls from each other when needed. They have no secrets. Unhealthy couples avoid conversations, ignore phone calls and texts, make plans that don’t include their partners, and never work towards helping each other feel safe. They get caught up in the blame game and forget that perhaps they have caused it themselves by not being the partner they know they need to be.  They instead default to “Because my partner is being difficult, I will be too!”

When we are intuitively connected to our voices within, believe it or not, they may be wrong! When we have come from a family where there was no safety, and where the world was either physically or emotionally threatening, we become anxious that our partner is treating us the same way. We are concerned that others can see right through us and we defend ourselves whether we need to or not.  Repeated arguments about trust, security and safety are all really about attachment: the need to feel as if we are important to, and are lovingly supported by someone in this world. When that feeling is threatened in any way, we become defensive, angry, and fearful.  Interestingly enough, after a time of repeated “yes you are, no I’m not” behavior patterns, we have created exactly what we were fearing!  

So how do we stop the cycle?

  • Be the first to listen to your partner, and learn to structure your comments on your partner’s behaviors (not characteristics), rather then what you believe they are feeling.
  • Stop your defenses. Encourage your partner them to tell you why they feel that way, and listen to how a simple communication error may have caused a misunderstanding. Don’t interpret their message to match the negative messages you have heard in the pasts from others.
  • Take turns talking about what your roles have been in the argument, without blaming each other. You might need help in doing this, but by all means, if the relationship has equity and worthwhile, then invest some money into getting the proper help.

If it seems easier said than done, your right, but having a strong, healthy relationship with a dependable partner is worth the time and work. It can be the most valuable assets you have!

~Wendy Pegan, Relationship Builder