When It’s Time for an Injection of TLC
Relationships go through many stages. When you hit a snag, it can be very stressful for both you and your partnership. But if both partners are willing to work through the rough patches, together, you can resolve conflicts and move forward in a stronger direction. Whether you’re in a rut, having more arguments than calm discussions, or feeling sad about where you’re headed, committing some time and effort into the relationship may be just what you need to stay together for the rest of your lives.
Take a step back to reflect on what is bothering you. Think about the key problems in your relationship. The small, everyday annoyances may be eating away at you, but are bigger issues present in the relationship that pose the real problem? Also consider other stressors that could be taking a toll on your union. Are you experiencing the typical relationship stress: financial hardship, health concerns or a child struggling in school? All these factors—and others—can test an already rocky relationship. When you examine your relationship, swallow your pride and take an objective look at your own role in any conflicts. Have your words and actions toward your partner helped or added to your problems?
Choose a quiet time when both you and your partner are rested and calm, with the children in school or with a sitter. Don’t begin the conversation when either of you is angry. Agree to hear each other out, speak calmly and genuinely listen to each other without getting defensive. Neither dominate the conversation nor let your partner stifle your voice. Respect each other’s feelings. You can disagree with what is being said, but don’t devalue how your partner says something makes him or her feel. On the contrary, try to understand those feelings. Focus on the here and now. What are the problems you’re experiencing as a couple right now? Rehashing old issues that already have been resolved isn’t going to help you move forward as a couple.
Discuss what needs to happen to resolve your issues. Maybe you need to schedule time together without the children, agree to cool down before you discuss contentious issues, make an effort to bring less work home, or create a budget to better control your spending and finances. It’s important that both you and your partner make joint decisions about what to do next. Resolution will be most successful if each of you takes responsibility for what you can change or improve, without just pointing the finger at each other. This probably will involve compromise from both of you.
If your relationship has soured to the point where you and your partner cannot repair it on your own, you may need to enlist more support. Discuss the possibility of attending counseling together. A third party may be able to provide the objective perspective you need to move forward. Enter counseling with an open mind and a commitment to resolving your conflicts and repairing your relationship.
Conflicts don’t have to signify the end of your relationship. A calm, objective look at where you and your partner are presently and where you want to head in the future can help you resolve your problems. Talk to each other, use empathy and commit to a plan that leads your relationship to happier days.
A mother of two, Erin Agnello writes about parenting, relationships and education. Her work has appeared on sites including The Bump and Mom.me. Agnello has been teaching since 2001 and works in special education and early literacy. She holds a B.A. in psychology from Wilfrid Laurier University and a B.Ed. from Windsor University.