I once met a couple who experienced arguments in very different ways. When an argument started, the woman preferred to address it head on, deal with the challenge, forgive and move on. Her husband, however, would shut down and walk away which infuriated her and would send her into a rage. In discussing these habits with the couple we realized that when angry discussions started, the husband preferred to walk away since he feared that if he became too angry he would say - or do - something he would later regret. As a result he would walk away. She, however, wanted to immediately address disagreements since she strongly believed you should never walk away angry with the one you love.
Although neither approach is wrong, when two people have opposite approaches to conflict it could cause unnecessary resentment, conflict, and leave the concern unresolved. Once the couple understood how they handled conflict they were able to come up with skills that would work for them: she would do her best to hold her thoughts until he was ready they could calmly discuss the point of concern. They further agreed that if it was intense enough that she needed to address it immediately she would express this and he would not run away but, instead, work to stay engaged. This was work for the couple to handle - neither was comfortable with the new approach - but in time they found a compromise that worked for them.
Communication is the key to any healthy relationship. How well do you and your partner communicate? There are some who believe that their partner is their best friend. Although different people define a "best friend" in different ways, the idea that your partner is someone you are comfortable enough to be completely open with remains true.
When you have an understanding of your needs you are better able to communicate those with your partner and when they know what they need it makes expressing needs and desires an easier path. But what if one, or both, of you struggle with communication? How do you keep yourself open if you are unsure how to share what you are thinking/feeling?
If you and your partner are committed and determined to succeed for the long term, take the time to learn how each of you communicate. Practice with smaller topics so you can tackle the larger items together. How do you share your preferences in food? Can you explain to each other what your ideal weather is, and why? What about your favorite place to visit? Sharing this information and learning how you each process these choices can build a foundation on how to share with each other. Let your communication grow from there…. What makes you happy (and why)? How do you share the household responsibilities? How do you prefer to handle anger?
Taking the time to learn about your own needs and then the needs of your partner makes it possible to see how communication leads to negotiation and healthy conversations for the long term. With communication comes the desire to support and nurture each other. And communication leads to an honest relationship.
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