It’s no surprise that some of the most oft quoted comments of people in healthy, long-term relationships of any nature are:
“We never go to sleep on an argument”
“We discuss conflicts until they are resolved”
“We take time out to let emotions settle down”
Comments unlikely to be heard from these people include:
“Let us never speak of this again!”
“I don’t want to talk about!”
“It doesn’t matter”
The key here is continuous communication especially when we don’t want to communicate!
We sometimes avoid communicating effectively because we are emotionally charged and afraid that we might say something we regret; the consequence of this is unresolved issues which then go on to become primary, albeit underlying, sources of rows. These rows tend to occur some time down the line and we will pick on the most innocuous issues e.g. domestic duties, finances, lifestyle etc rather than address the real issue. The key, according to relationship experts such as Dr. Stanley Ducharme in his interesting article Managing Conflict in Your Relationship, is to let the other party know that you are emotionally charged and need some time out to calm down before continuing communication.
In his book ‘You Can Be Happy No Matter What’ Richard Carlson says of moods in relationships:
“In our low [bad] moods, we lose our perspective (or bearings) and life itself seems hard and frustrating, Our relationships seem to be a burden and other people seem irritating, or in some way out to get us. In low [bad] moods, it seems an affront to us when people don’t see things as we do, and we have a sense of urgency and doom. In a low [bad] mood, every problem looks like just the tip of the iceberg to a much greater problem.
When we are in a high [good] mood again there is little on our minds. Life and our relationships seem to flow and somehow work out in a nice way. When our mood drops, our minds are again filled with concerns. It is in our lowest [worst] moods, when we are least equipped to do so, that we are tempted to try to solve problems or resolve issues with others.”
“Let’s talk about it later” is perfectly acceptable when we are in a bad or low mood; the silent treatment is not. Many people consider the silent treatment an effective form of communication. The silent treatment is not an effective form of communication; it is an abusive form of communication much like anger or disgust. It is far more damaging than anger or disgust in that by employing the silent treatment we are ignoring another human being’s basic need to be acknowledged. Ignoring someone is one of the most nasty, insidious forms of bullying wherever it occurs whether it is at school, at work or in a relationship.
We might avoid difficult conversations because we are afraid it might lead to a relationship break up; ironically avoiding difficult conversations is one of the primary contributors to relationship break ups. Avoiding difficult conversations means a build up of resentment which is another major cause of picking on innocuous issues rather than addressing the real ones. Resentment is extremely destructive in relationships and can even result in disgust and revulsion manifesting themselves through reactions such as our skins crawling. Skin crawling is where one or more partners can barely stand the sight or presence of each other in spite of having been previously very intimate – how often have we heard the rather cruel and mean statement “I don’t know what I ever saw in you”…interestingly this level of cruelty and meanness may have something to do with the intensity of being ‘in love’ that I mention in my previous article Love and In Love. When we are feeling resentful it is worth taking note of this quote:
“Resentment is like taking poison and hoping the other person dies.”
Sourced from http://www.emotionalcompetency.com/ and attributed to St Augustine
With reference to the earlier quote from ‘You Can Be Happy No Matter What’, once we have built up enough resentment we are pretty much perpetually in a low or bad mood. It is no wonder then that partners with a great deal of resentment initially express relief and a great weight off their shoulders when a break up happens. In the longer term though they may come to the realisation that it may have been possible to resolve the resentment issues without resorting to relationship termination. In fact some even carry their resentment building patterns in to their next relationship.
Stay strong and serene.
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