If the boat ain’t rockin’…
I often see couples whose relationship has improved to the point that the main tension is gone, who are suddenly afraid to address underlying issues in case they suddenly, “rock the boat”.
Fear that addressing the underlying issues may push the relationship back into turmoil in effect halts the relationship from progressing. This avoidance approach almost always paves the way for old patterns to return.
I’m not suggesting that you embrace arguing and conflict but I’m also saying not to avoid it. It’s not the amount of arguing that’s the issue but how the arguing is done! So, how do I suggest you argue?
Firstly, try identifying what the issue is. It sounds obvious but we often start an argument by being indirect. For instance saying, “you’re lazy” will almost always result in defensiveness and return criticism. Instead saying, “it’d make me feel a lot more relaxed and happy if you helped me clean up after dinner” will generally have a better outcome. If the bigger issue is your partner regularly avoiding their share of the housework then try expressing how it makes you feel rather than directly criticising them. “Honey, you know how stressed I’ve been lately? A lot of that stress comes from feeling like I have to do all the housework, what would you be able to do to help me?”
The bigger issues in relationships often revolve around:
- finances, usually one person complains the other spends too much;
- sex, one person complains the other person wants it too often or not enough;
- work/life balance, not enough time spent with the parter.
To improve a relationship long term each of these issues need to be addressed. If there’s improvement in your relationship but underlying tension about these issues remain, it won’t be long before the tension rebuilds and spills into other areas.
Setting regular catch up times to discuss heated topics is a good way of not avoiding conflict. If you know that every Tuesday at 8pm you sit down with the T.V off and have to discuss your relationship for half an hour then there’s opportunity for each of you to raise the issue. Always raise an issue based on how it effects you, NOT what your partner is doing wrong.
Finally, the trick to arguing successfully is to always finish the night on a positive. It may be that you watch a comedy show on T.V together or share a treat but you need to do something that reconnects you rather than leaving the tension between you. My own rule is to never fall asleep without making up. I’d rather stay up all night until an issue is resolved than go to bed and have a restless nights sleep.
Who knows maybe the boat will be rockin’ in other ways….