By Ashley Albertson
Let me paint a picture for you: it's a Friday night, you’ve gotten dressed up, actually put makeup on, the kids are at the babysitter's house and you look in the mirror and: WOW. You look good and you’re ready for some one-on-one time with your favorite person. You get a text that there is bad traffic and he’s going to be 15 minutes late, which isn’t really a big deal, but you do feel a little disappointed. You let it go, nothing can ruin this night. You get in the car, you drive to your favorite restaurant where you have made a reservation, because you thought ahead, you are so thoughtful! You get there and he hasn’t noticed that you dressed up, didn’t thank you for calling ahead and making a reservation, AND didn’t apologize for being 15 minutes late to your special night, but do you say anything?! Of course not, you’re not going to jeopardize this night by bringing up something that would start an argument, so instead you sit in silence, you don’t engage in meaningful conversation and you get more hurt…
I know, I know, this has never happened to you BUT I cannot tell you how many times I have been in this exact situation. I would rather be silent and suffer than bring up something that is bothering me and risk an argument. I have been conditioned to think that disagreement drives people apart, and I think a lot of people believe that. And why wouldn't we? We have never been taught or shown how to argue in a way that leads to bonding. What we have seen is disagreements that turn to yelling, yelling turns into divorce and divorce turns into loneliness, and that will not be us. I would rather be silent and suffering than alone. BUT THAT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE TRUE!
Ashley are you CRAZY!?! Well just hear me out. When things get under our skin and we don’t talk about it a couple things happen: we are isolating ourselves from the person we love, we are keeping things from them, we assume they can’t be trusted to know this about me, we assume we know how they will react and it is not worth expressing our feelings, and lastly, they go from small things and they turn into huge things. I am the biggest offender of this mindset, but I have had to unlearn this thought process. One of my favorite sayings (now) is, “healthy people ask for what they need”. By telling your partner that you are hurt by something they did you’re allowing them insight into what you are going through, bringing them into your world. In a healthy relationship, both parties can express hurt and it’s not taken personally, but it’s seen as a way to understand each other better and grow together. That is the goal! Disagreement doesn’t have to equal distance, and ultimately loneliness.
Here are a couple tips on how to do this:
1) Ask your partner if you can have 10 minutes to talk about something important to you
Asking permission shows your partner respect and also allows them to say "no " if they are uncomfortable with having a deep conversation at that particular time. If they say no, ask when a better time would be for them. Although it is important for both of you to agree to talk, you don't want to put off a conversation for more than 24 hours. Also remember: HALT. Don't try to talk about something serious when you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired.
2) Once you find a time to talk, use the RAVE method
RAVE is part of a speaker listener communication method where one person is the speaker and the other person is listening soley to understand, NOT respond. In this method the listener will Repeat, Affirm, Validate and Empathize with the speaker. An important thing to remember is understanding and agreeing are not the same thing: you can say "we never spend time alone together" and I can understand what you are saying without agreeing with you.
3) Always get the other persons perspective
When you allow the other person to give their perspective on the issue you can gain insight into how it is for them and that will allow you to bond and connect.
4) Express appreciation
Being vulnerable is hard and you always want to thank your partner for being vulnerable with you. Show appreciation with a hug, a kiss or even verbally. This will end the exercise on a positive note and will hopefully make you feel even more connected.
As I have gone through the wonderfully uncomfortable process of becoming vulnerable with my fiancé I have found that where I was sure I knew how he would react, he completely surprised me with love and understanding. Give your partner the gift of your vulnerability. You don't have to be afraid of disagreeing or speaking up, there are so many ways for you to learn how to bond through conflict. At Live the Life we can teach you some of those skills for communication and conflict resolution that will turn disagreements into bonding. You'll find that as you learn to use the skills there is nothing off limits, nothing too heated to talk about, you'll have a true safe place to understand and be understood. I would love for you to join us at a free Adventures in Marriage class where you will learn how to have the marriage you've always wanted with the spouse you already have. Learn more at LivetheLife.org