Want to know what causes the dissolution of far too many relationships in this world?
As a bestselling author and motivational coach, I can tell you how it goes in three acts:
You hurt me.
Because you hurt me, I hurt you.
You hurt me even more because I just hurt you, so I hurt you even more. Then you hurt me; then I hurt you; then you hurt me because I just hurt you, so I hurt you more, and so on.
Why do people hurt each other in relationships?
The point is, it’s easy to act cold/hurtful/in a stonewalling manner toward someone who you feel has said or done something you perceive as having done the same to you... even if it is someone whom you love. But that’s the point. That’s the easy
thing to do. Basically, most of us people as a species aren’t mean. Rather, we are weak.
It takes effort to consciously, openly, bravely, and warmly speak up about the hurt you feel before things spiral negatively downward. Yes, it takes effort to take the high road and to express your vulnerabilities and concerns with warmth and candor. But this effort is worth it, because love and connection are your true sources for happiness — not money, not shoes, not sports cars... and definitely not the satisfaction of being right about someone or something. (Yes, I know that last one really sometimes does feel as if it will bring you happiness... but in the end, it brings more misery than glory in relationships.)
So the next time someone you care about does something that you feel isn’t very caring at all, put in the brave effort and squash that relationship killer while it’s still small.
How to turn clashes into communication opportunities
With this in mind, here are some helpful communication tips to keep on hand:
1. Pick the right time and the right place.
Do you have at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted time to discuss the issue? Are you in a place where your partner feels like he or she can talk openly and not self-consciously about what’s wrong? Are you in a loud restaurant where it’s hard to hear and must therefore shout — even before your partner makes you want to start yelling in anger? In general, the best place to talk is at home alone where you can sit facing each other, and while making good, strong eye contact. Many psychologists even suggest holding hands as you talk to keep a warm physical connection with each other through all the bumps in the conversation.
2. Before you begin a difficult conversation, make it very clear to your partner that your goal is to create the best relationship possible for you both.
Admit that you recognize how talking about difficult subjects can be uncomfortable, but you’d rather have a difficult conversation now than a decaying, untruthful, less intimate relationship later by keeping mum. Remind your partner how much you value him or her. Compliment your sweetie on a few qualities you appreciate. In general, be 100 percent certain your partner completely understands and believes the goal is to increase your love (not wound anyone to the quick) before you begin any difficult discussion.
3. If you are upset at your partner for something specific, try not to generalize by saying, “You never do this. You always say that.”
Generalizations will only escalate your partner’s emotional state because they’re vague and less believable than a specific instance or behavior. Be honest with yourself: a truthful “always” or “never” assertion is, in reality, a very rare thing. And psychologists all agree that it’s best to limit your talk to the one specific, recent event that is bugging you and make past offenses inadmissible as evidence in this round of relationship court.
4. Be conscious of trying to begin as many of your sentences with the word “I” as you can rather than using “you.”
The goal in changing the verbiage here is to own your feelings. Don’t slander your partner. For example, try to say something like: “I felt like you were ignoring me yesterday — and I was hurt because I needed your warmth after my proposal was rejected at the office” instead of “You are cold, heartless and don’t offer me an ounce of support when it comes to my career.”
5. Create an obvious upside to talking through your problems so you and your partner will want to have these kinds of dicussions again.
In other words, be sure to close the conversation by consciously listing all the positive things you learned thanks to open and honest communiation with your partner. Make a specific list of all the new actions you both will try to make a habit in order to keep your relationship as strong and loving as possible. This is where that good, old-fashioned reward of “making up” comes in: hug, kiss each other and bask in the relieved tension dissipating afterward! By ending on an upbeat, rewarding note, you’ll have a positive association for next time a difficult conversation comes up, which will help you get to the heart of the matter much more quickly together.
Karen Salmansohn is a life coach and best-selling author of 27 books, including Even God Is Single, So Stop Giving Me A Hard Time