You’re careful about what you say so you don’t upset your partner and cause an argument.
You pain over how to bring up an issue because you’re worried about how he’ll react.
Censoring what you say and how you say it is so natural you don’t even realize you’re doing it most of the time.
These patterns of relating and communicating are common in many couple relationships and are the reason so many couples feel resentful and disconnected from each other.
These patterns go on for years, sometimes decades and even though they likely don’t make your relationship any better you can’t imagine how to do it differently.
Some people avoid conflict at all cost and live pleasantly with no real depth to their relationship.
Some argue frequently and then just move on after a few days without ever addressing the issue, until the argument comes up again.
Each relationship develops different patterns.
The common denominator is these patterns are painful and compromise the quality of your life and marriage.
The good news is you can change these patterns no matter how long you’ve been at it.
Just like my client who was in this exact place when we started working together.
She had always described herself as a confident, direct, say it how it is kind of person.
That is in all places except her marriage.
When conversations became tense her husband would raise his voice, get defensive or angry. She would get defensive and angry back and then they wouldn’t talk for days.
He would go radio silent and she didn’t know what to say or do to make things better but she knew she hated the silence between them.
It was painful to live this way. Not knowing when he would be ready to talk again.
Because of this, she decided it was better to not bring up things that might cause this to happen again.
That’s when she decided it was better to keep her concerns to herself. She stopped sharing her thoughts, feelings, desires, concerns openly and honestly.
She started internalizing everything instead of bringing it up with her husband because she couldn’t bare the stonewalling.
Not being true to herself, not speaking up or being honest had it’s own set of repercussions.
The more she censored herself, walked on eggshells, didn’t voice her concerns, She noticed she started to feel anxious and depressed.
She even started to consider that their marriage just wouldn’t work and that without him changing she couldn’t see how this could possibly work.
All of that changed over the months that we worked together.
First I helped her see that her avoidance was causing much more harm to their relationship and to her.
In the moment she might avoid an argument but the long term consequences of that was compromising her mental health and she started to feel more hopeless about their marriage and considered they may have to separate.
With weekly coaching sessions she learned to think about conflict differently. Viewing it as an opportunity for each of them to grow as people and as a couple rather than something to be avoided.
She stopped feeling responsible for her husband’s reactions and focused on controlling her own emotions and reactions.
She went from thinking she had to adjust her behavior so he didn’t get upset to realizing It’s ok for him to have his reactions, to be upset or angry and she only has to work on how she responds to him.
This freed up so much mental energy for her to focus on how to communicate more effectively with him.
She learned how to bring up concerns in a confident, assertive way even if her husband disagreed or didn’t like what she was saying.
She learned to set boundaries when she felt like the conversation was heading down a bad path.
She started to be more herself again. Speaking up for herself confidently and directly.
Telling her husband what she wanted instead of complaining of what wasn’t happening.
And guess what…..her husband responded much better than she ever imagined.
He was responding to the changes she was making. He had a better understanding of what her concerns were and what she wanted because of the more direct, non blaming way she was communicating.
It was easier for him to receive her message when it was delivered in this way.
This is true of all relationships.
The more she showed up in her power and communicated assertively, when she talked about what she wanted instead of talking about him, speaking without blame, criticism or judgment, things started to shift in their relationship.
Depression and anxiety lifted and she began to have hope about their marriage again.
As a couple they started to work more as a team. Supporting each other through difficulties instead of working against each other.
She feels so much better about herself and her marriage and feels equipped to deal with things that come their way.
She is more accepting of her husband and his differences rather than making them mean that they don’t belong together.
This is what can happen when you learn the skills and tools that it takes to have a successful, supportive loving partnership.