How many times have you either heard or uttered that statement? “We need to talk.” Does anyone have an idea of the percentage of times those words precede a break up of some kind? I haven no clue myself. The next question, how often do those words precede a fight?
Ultimately those words mean “I am unhappy, and I want change”. To be even more specific, “I am unhappy with you”. The words communicate a longing for the relationship to change directions. But what happens to the person on the receiving end of those words? I have been in both places, the giver and the receiver, and I know the anxiety that comes with both. When saying them to your partner you fear their response; will they be receptive, will I get my needs / wants met, how hurt will they be, etc. When on the receiving end it is like an instantaneous rejection. It is a message that the other person doesn’t like something that I am doing.
The problem is that we don’t say these words early enough. Because of the fear of hurting the other party, or of their response, or that we won’t be heard or get our needs met, we withhold those words until we just can’t take it anymore. And by that time whatever “it” is becomes like N-stage cancer, most likely fatal to the relationship.
There are parts of relationships that one or more party won’t like. There will be parts of each other that the other person won’t like. I have seen in online dating profiles the concept of “unconditional acceptance”, accepting a person for who they are no matter what. What that does is limit the room for growth. Our partners know us. They know all of us, even the dirty parts that we don’t necessarily want to see. Our partner is best placed to be able to point out the places where we are able to grow. The difficulty is that none of us like to have our dirt pointed out to us.
Instead of “unconditional acceptance”, why don’t we try for “unconditional love”? I have talked about the concept of unconditionally loving ourselves in a previous post. Unconditional love means that I can love my partner, even with his / her flaws, even with his / her mistakes. That I can bring difficult things to the front while loving them, and just as importantly loving myself. I can talk about difficult stuff without getting overly wordy, without getting defensive, and without being critical. Sounds easy, right? What that means is going against every desire to pre-defend your position and pre-soothe the hurts you believe your partner will have. KISS, “Keep it simple stupid!” An example of using KISS is: “When ______ happens I feel (angry, hurt, scared, sad, guilty, powerless, etc).” Can’t get much simpler than that. From there the work begins. If your partner gets reactive keep yourself centered and not get defensive, critical or reactive yourself. Simple.
Little hurts now to save big hurts later. Avoiding bringing things up to “keep the peace” just lets problems build and build. It keeps us from being able to find unconditional love, both for ourselves and for our partner. When we are not centered with our own needs and compromise ourselves for our relationship unconditional love goes out the window. On the other side, when we expect our partner to never say or do anything that makes us uncomfortable we are unable to grow and place our partners in positions that create resentment and anger. Communication is necessary in a relationship, so is being able to hear the message.