One of the biggest warning signs you often see with a relationship, is when someone tells you that they ‘never argue’. They say this, and of course the assumption is among most of us that no arguments means no conflict which equals ideal relationship. That couple who shout at each other all the time though? Doomed, right?
This makes sense on the surface and seems to be intuitive, but if you go a little deeper then you’ll quickly find that it isn’t actually based on real life. The problem is, that in reality no one is so laid back as to have absolutely no complaints with their partner and no two people are so in-sync as to never have any disagreements.
What this means then, is that a complete lack of arguments has nothing to do with a blissful relationship and everything to do with being conflict avoidant personalities. So in other words, you’re not actually happy with the other person – you just bottle it up rather than saying anything.
Why This Is a Problem
Bottling things up does have some advantages. It means for starters that you’ll avoid saying anything heated that could be damaging to your relationship, and it means you’ll enjoy more pleasant evenings rather than being constantly het up. Every now and then letting something go (which is subtly different from bottling things up anyway) is the bigger thing to do and can avoid unnecessary upset.
Overall though, keeping every gripe to yourself is bad news and will end up jeopardizing your relationship. There are several reasons for this, some of which are as follows:
• You won’t get things off your chest – which isn’t healthy and will generally cause you to become more insulated and depressive.
• It’s dishonest – if you aren’t telling your partner when you’re unhappy, then you aren’t being completely honest with them. You won’t know each other as well as you should, and they won’t be able to support you when you find things tough – in fact they’ll make matters worse.
• You won’t improve your relationship – if you tell someone what they’re doing to upset you, then they can change their ways and the result will be a better relationship for both of you. You need to be able to hash that out though if you are going to progress.
• You will grow to resent them – if your partner is constantly doing things to upset you, then gradually you’ll create a list in your head of everything they’re doing wrong. This can cause you to grow to resent them over time, and it can mean you end up eventually spilling your guts all at once and hurting their feelings a lot more as a result. Many relationships end this way.
In short then, in relationships as in many aspects of life, you have to be cruel to be kind. If you want your relationship to work well, then you need to occasionally raise the issues you have with your partner.
How to Change the Dynamic in Your Relationship
If you’re a conflict avoidant type of person, then just knowing that you should raise more issues isn’t enough – you’ll need to change the way you think and feel in order to make yourself more assertive and start to alter the dynamic in your relationship.
The best way to do this is to start off with one issue that has been bugging with you, and to calmly tell your partner. Don’t worry – they’re not going to leave you over it. Although they may get a little upset, tearful even maybe, in the long term they’ll probably realise that you said what you said because you care about the relationship.
‘My dear, I’ve been meaning to talk to you. I’m sorry to raise this, but the fact that you never cook is starting to upset me. Please in future could you volunteer to make dinner more often?’
You may get a tirade in response, you may upset them and they might say hurtful things. Let it wash over you though and don’t respond to any other accusations or issues they’re likely to raise in response. Just say:
‘I’m sorry if I’ve upset you. I really love you and that’s the last thing I want to do, but I feel it’s important that we be open and equal in our relationship’.
There are also some other little things you can do to start subtly changing the dynamic…
- Don’t say things are okay if they aren’t
- Don’t ‘sulk’ – come out and say what it is that you’re thinking
- Make a conscious effort to change for them and to put more effort in as well as getting them to do so
- Suggest that they do things casually, or invite them to follow your lead
- Open up the channels of communication – talk more in general and make an effort to be more open and honest with one another
While this may all seem scary at first, in the long run it will result in a situation where your partner knows you better and is better able to make you happy and to express themselves in return.