Is your relationship a constant battle of love vs. fighting?
Are you finding it impossible to solve problems together, and have lost your way as a couple?
Your relationship is tired, stressed, and lacking what it used to have. It’s all getting too much, but you don’t know how to get back to the way things used to be. Your way of communicating has become distressed, constantly criticising each other, being sarcastic and defensive.
You might be thinking, what happened to us?
In Australia, 42% of first time marriages who have been married less than 9 years end up in divorce (aifs.gov.au), with 60% of second marriages also ending in divorce. 70% of heterosexual unmarried couples break up within the first 12 months. And what is the top reason for this you ask? Failure to communicate effectively results in ongoing conflict and a relationship breakdown.
Relationships are hard.
Let’s face it – we all go into a relationship with rose coloured glasses, but as time passes life gets in the way, issues and hurdles arise, and then our relationship takes a bruising. You may be thinking, yes this sounds like me, but aren’t all relationships like this? Doesn’t everyone argue and have issues?
Whilst many relationships go through these battles, there are many ways you can overcome these patterns of behaviour together. It doesn’t always have to be like this – mocking one another, shutting off and not talking, never really having good conversations. The problem is not the emotion, it’s how you express it.
Tips to communicate effectively with your partner:
- Recognise when you need to openly talk about a concern – you might be stuck on something your partner did or said, have a headache or a sick feeling in your stomach from something they said.
- Approach your partner at a good time when they appear relaxed, and tell them that you have something important you want to talk to them about. That way you don’t feel rushed or distracted.
- Work out your communication style. Do you know what yours is? Do you know what your partners is?
- When discussing an issue, stop and take a moment to think to yourself;
- Are you being negative or critical?
- Do you make fun of their words or behavior, or make sarcastic comments and jokes?
- Are you using a harsh or defensive tone, tensing up, or yelling?
- Do you talk over them vocally, or wait for them to finish so you can then speak?
- Have you shut down completely, gone cold, or become non-responsive?
- If you are messaging one another, have you blocked them?
- If you notice yourself doing these things, take deep breath and try doing the opposite. For example, acknowledge something positive that they’ve said or done recently, listen and think before you respond, or use “I” statements to explain the situation and how it makes you feel. Then allow them to also say how they feel.
It’s unhealthy for you to wait until you are about to explode before raising an issue. You’ll find that you won’t think clearly or act wisely. Also, pick your time to approach your partner – when they’re about to run out the door, or the minute you are both home from a long day at work isn’t it! It is unlikely that you will be fully receptive or responsive to one another at these times. The way you communicate can predict whether your relationship survives. Sometimes it’s hard to know who’s right or wrong in a relationship.
So what do you do next?
You might have tried all of the above tips but still found yourself upset about a fundamental issue. Talking to someone outside the relationship and getting the support you need can really help put things into perspective.
It is important to work hard to create lasting relationships. Time, effort and deliberate focus are required. Consideration of the costs and benefits of the relationship you’re in is essential. Remember nothing is perfect, life is challenging but it shouldn’t be harmful either.
Written by Psychologist Amelie Nguyen – www.creatingchange.net.au