The saying goes, ‘all is fair in love and war’, but there are many things that are not ‘fair’ when it comes to love, especially arguments that feel like war.
Have you been in fights, disagreements, yelling matches, or flat out warfare with a partner who supposedly loves you? It doesn’t feel good when it happens and it is not how love really works.
It is not possible to truly love someone and also scream horrible insults at them, throw things, and demean them publicly. Sorry, not sorry. If that describes you or your partner then this is important for you to read. The kind of love that allows these behaviors to occur repeatedly might be better described as possessive love, immature love, insecure love, or abusive love. If that is not the kind of love you or your partner want, and you are ready and willing to work to make things better, then I encourage you to consider Couples Counseling.
People often stay in relationships that are damaging because they do not know how to make it better, effectively or safely talk about things, set boundaries, or leave the relationship if things stay the same.
All relationships have disagreements and conflict but here are some general rules for what is fair to expect in a relationship and what I expect all couples to agree to when they start working with Growth and Gratitude Online Therapy:
Identify your feelings (not just anger)
-Are you upset because your partner went out for a drink with friends and came home late? Or are you frustrated because you have been asking to go on a date night for weeks and feel disconnected and lonely? Understanding your feelings will change the direction of how a conversation or argument begins.
Use ‘I’ Language
-When you are in touch with your feelings and can express them with ‘I’ language you will help your partner to understand from you are coming from without feeling boxed in or defensive. Try saying something like, “I feel disconnected when we don’t set aside time to cuddle and talk to each other every week”. This statement reveals how you are feeling and outlines a potential solution.
No cursing, insulting, or demeaning language.
-This is an obvious but important point that both people must agree to. There is no justification for name calling and using these words proves that you see the other person as less than you. When we used demeaning language the conversation automatically turns combative and will not get you anywhere.
Keep the focus narrow
-Tackle one issue at a time. This gives you the best chance of solving an issue. The more things that get brought up the more likely one of you will become defensive and there will not be any solutions generated. Take a win-win-win approach by finding the ‘low hanging fruit’ that you both can agree to. Any forward progress builds momentum and positive feelings.
-Do. Not. Interrupt. If you interrupt say ‘I’m sorry, please continue’ and let them finish what they were saying. If you are only thinking about your answer once you get a turn to speak then you will miss what your partner is saying and the conversation will not go anywhere. If you really struggle with this then set a timer on your phone and let that be the way you exchange turns.
Time outs are ok, but set a time to return to the conversation
-The conversation has to happen but if one person needs a break that is ok. Be sure to set a timer or make a plan to return to the conversation at a set time in the future so that the issue is not ignored.
Speak your Truth
-It is a great avoidance strategy to bottle-up your feelings and keep them to yourself but the problems will not go away with this strategy. If you are unable or unwilling to share your truth out loud or with your partner this is a sign that there is a major problem. Write it down, send an email, but find some way to share what you are feeling and thinking with your partner.
Love is both a feeling and a behavior. When we love someone we show it through actions. To love someone is to speak kindly to them, listen to them, believe them, and take their feelings in consideration. Couples who used to be madly in love but are struggling to find each other because they have grown apart can improve their relationship with help from an experienced couples counselor. Re-building trust, intimacy, and feelings of love for your partner can be re-kindled if both partners are ready to do the work and commit to change.