Let’s talk about talking. Yes. Let’s do that.
As we’ve established, 69% of problems in relationships are perpetual. So, if you’ve got a problem that’s been around a few years, it’ll probably continue to rear its head every once in a while. Unfortunately when it comes to problems in relationships, people rarely want to talk about them. It’s not surprising, it’s just a common defense mechanism called denial that everyone uses at one time or another in their life to just keep the party moving. Denial becomes tricky when it becomes damaging, which is what happens when we refuse to talk about our relationship difficulties.
You have to create an environment where your partner feels comfortable to talk to you about the scary stuff. Validate them. Practice the sentence, “I see why you feel that way,” and just keep working on it.
I’m going to be honest with you. When I started Gottman’s Sound Relationship House Series, I didn’t realize how long it would take me to write these posts. I guess it’s a testament to the level of work that goes into a relationship… and a master’s degree in counseling. Point being, there’s only a few posts left and I have seriously managed to drag them out. I’m going to get this puppy over and done with. Catching up?
It’s time to talk! It’s what we all wait for in arguments and now is the time to start talking about the talking.
As I mentioned, 69 percent of problems in relationships are perpetual. They don’t change much. That’s a big chunk of your relationship that might get agitating, frustrating, and just downright unpleasant if you just deal with it. There’s a belief in relationships that when someone loves you, they want to make you happy, and making you happy means not putting your feet on the couch after I’ve asked you not to time and time again!
So how do we deal with Mr. Cruise’s inability to understand that shoes don’t belong on the couch?
We start a dialogue! We use all the skills we just learned like positive affect, softened start-up, repair and de-escalation. Along with things that *hopefully* have been built-in by building our house. Things like humor, affection, empathy, interest, etc.
Nay! This can totally be done. The goal here is to have a relationship that is healthy enough that each partner can bring their concerns, whether about shoes on the couch or needing more hugs, and there will be enough rapport in the relationship that bringing concerns into the relationship will cause the problem to be externalized by the couple. Both partners will face whatever issue it is with focus and determination. It won’t always be perfect, people will forget about putting their shoes on the couch, but they will work on it. Why will they work on it?
Because we explain the meaning behind why these things bother us.
We avoid criticizing and picking our partner apart and explain. Why do shoes on the couch bother us?
Maybe it is because it makes us feel that our partner is taking a load off while there are dishes in the sink, clothes to be folded, meals to be cooked, and carpets to be vacuumed and therefore your shoes on the couch is just another thing I have to clean, you’re not helping me, and therefore I’m kind of pissed off!
Whatever the reason, examine it, know why it bothers you, if you believe it’s an issue that can be collaborated on in your relationship, bring it up, talk about it, make it a “we” problem instead of a “you” problem. Explain why it bothers you and get your partner’s buy-in. Start a dialogue. Keep it going. Keep it going. Maybe it’s 69 percent and you’ll be cuddling about it into your 80s. That’s what we’re hoping for here.