Fight Club: Talk Therapy For Surviving The Rough Spots
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By Mia Bolaris-Forget
Getting the ring is only the beginning of “happily ever after”. And, according to relationship experts, “happily ever after” is a direct result of keeping not only the spark alive, but also the communication alive. After all, experts and couples agree, you’ll spend more time dealing with each other across the table in the kitchen than under the covers in the bedroom.
The biggest problem couples face, say experts, is discussing deep feelings or combative issues.
They suggest that prior to marriage (or sometimes prior to living together) couples were able to vent to their respective friends (or family) and then approach the “disturbing” situation more calmly (having already gotten all the anger or frustration out of their system or simply feeling that while they may not necessarily agree, the decision would have little if any bearing on them). Once however couples begin to share a space and a life, THEY each become each other’s “family” and they are confronted with confronting each other with personal, professional, and family issues. And many expect to receive the same reaction they may have gotten from a parent, sibling, or close friend; and when they don’t hear what they want to hear, hope to hear or expect to hear, it becomes very easy to become offended, offensive and defensive.
Communicating and expressing thoughts and feelings effectively, say experts, is the key to helping couples avoid and eliminate negative feelings that disagreements and unresolved conflict can cause. The art of conversation is essential for helping both parties maintain an open mind and an open ear to what the other is really feeling and trying to say.
Here are a few pointers for helping you talk the talk more tactfully:
1. Refrain From Blame: While you may certainly feel like your partner’s actions are causing your grief, disappointment, and frustration, experts suggest holding you tongue when it comes to pointing the finger. Instead of placing the blame on your mate via “YOU” statements, consider suggesting that the issue may be with you (yourself) by using “ME” statement. For example: Instead of I can’t believe YOU never take off you shoes before entering the house and dragging dirt all over MY rug, try “ It would really make ME happy and more comfortable if you took you shoes off before walking in the house, so I don’t have to vacuum as much as I do, and so I could have more time for you. According to experts, taking the negative focus off your partner is more likely to get you a positive response rather than a confrontational, defensive one.
2. Think Before You Speak: While experts maintain that it’s quite easy to lose you cool when you are upset, they add, that that’s the most important time to keep it. Relax and think before you speak. If you let your emotions get the best of you, then you are likely to evoke the same emotional response from your partner. If you stay cool, calm and collected, so, say experts, will your mate.
3. Use Common Courtesy: Even if your partner has done something he or she shouldn’t have, something you’ve discussed previously, or that he or she should know better about, there’s no need (or excuse) say experts to resort to mud-slinging, hurtful accusations, name calling, sarcasm, eye rolling, pouting, or huffing and puffing. In fact according to studies, there seems to be a high correlation with such derogatory behaviors and divorce rate. So if you want to make your marriage work and last, experts suggest picking your battles wisely and fighting fair.
4. Try To Discuss Not Argue: Remember, this may be a debate, but it doesn’t have to be a “wrestling match”. Experts note that one of the biggest communication mistakes couples make is fighting to win, and not necessarily to reach a common and mutually acceptable solution. They suggest listening, really listening, remaining neutral and basing your response on logic rather than emotion.
5. Walk Away: Experts suggest putting a halt to heated arguments by knowing when to either call a truce or when to walk away until you can both approach and discuss the situation more calmly. Taking a break, gathering your thoughts and calming down may be exactly what you both need to put things in perspective and then come back to the table.
6. It’s Not What You Say, But How You Say It: Sure it’s the 100th time you’ve asked him or her to do something, but that, according to relationship experts, doesn’t give you license to start making demands. Your spouse is an adult (even if you don’t think they are acting like one) and doesn’t need you to chastise him or her because of “improper” behavior. Experts suggest asking (again, and again, and again) in a loving manner, and stressing how much certain actions would mean to you and how much you’d appreciate his or her cooperation.
7. Look Beyond The Obvious: Besides what you mate is seemingly upset about and/or complaining over, if there seems to be no “easy” resolution, you may want to consider the deeper issues surrounding your situation. Maybe it’s not just that you left the seat up, but rather that you mate feels like his/her opinion just doesn’t matter; or perhaps it’s not just that you parents ALWAYS call or refuse to visit, but rather that they call past a certain time (when they were asked not to) or that your mate doesn’t feel respected or accepted. It’s imperative that you UNDERSTAND the underlying reasons for your partner being upset and then either finding a way to address his/her feelings or accept each other’s limitations.
The most important factor say experts, is realizing that neither of you will ever be perfect (or the same, since we are all constantly changing and that you both come from different backgrounds and experiences), and that conflict is a natural, normal and healthy part of every relationship, if handled properly. And, they suggest that handling conflict properly means respecting your differences, giving each other time to experience the other’s way of “life” or doing things, discussing things calmly and lovingly, and learning to “let go” (of certain issues) and love each other for who, how and what you are (as long as what you accept is not damaging to you, your family, etc).
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