This is the final blog in the Connection Buster series. I hope you have found the other blogs helpful and have adopted some of the suggestions into your relationships.
In this blog, I will look at why people avoid certain conversations that are critical to the healthy growth of their relationship.
Cast your mind back to that last fight, do you recall asking or hearing your partner ask “Was it something that I said?” Well, maybe. But more often than not it’s the things people don’t say that harm their relationships.
According to psychologist Dan Wile, many arguments result from issues that people need to discuss but never do. This often lead to tension, confusion, frustration and hostility which makes it hard for people to connect because their amygdala (fire alarm) has detected danger and it’s not interested in playing nice.
Let me share a recent case with you to illustrate how common these situations are. I’ll call my couple Ben and Lisa.
Ben comes home in a foul mood after a terrible day at work. He feels he’s been jumping from one crisis to another for the last few month as the company undergoes a restructure. He is exhausted and discouraged as his team shrinks before his eyes. What’s worse is that he doesn’t even like his job and he’s been thinking for some time that he would love to go back to study and retrain to become a high school maths teacher, something he’s always been passionate about but he knows that would greatly lower the family’s income, and he suspects that his wife, Lisa, won’t go for it. Hence, he doesn’t even mention it to her.
Entering the house, Ben feels he needs some time alone. Lisa too, has had a terrible day, and she wants to talk. She’s been very worried about their oldest son, who’s been quieter than usual and she has also noticed that his grades have been dropping. She tried to confront him this morning on the way to school and it ended badly.
Lisa is feeling incompetent as a mother, and she wants Ben’s help. But for the past couple of years, he’s been overworked, stressed, depressed and withdrawn from her and the boys. Every time she tries to talk with Ben, he would dismiss her concerns, so she ends up managing things alone. By now she is starting to feel very alone. They haven’t made love for months, they seem to co-exist under the same roof but there’s not been any affection, appreciation or fun for a long time. Tonight, Lisa tells herself is the night that Ben will listen and she’s determined that she will get some support from Ben right now.
How does Ben react to her? He explodes, “I’ve been running from one crisis to another all day, all I want is some peace and quiet, some time to myself, is that too much to ask?”
“Yes, it is” Lisa tells him. Especially considering that he’s been absent from the family for quite some time, in her mind, she’s thinking “If you don’t care about me and the boys enough to deal with this, then you might as well move out of here and live in the office”.
Clearly there are a number of important conversations Ben and Lisa need to have, but because they haven’t had those conversations, they are unable to empathise with their partner and instead it becomes a war zone.
I hope the above example demonstrated to you the importance of what Dan Wile term “self-disclosure and connect”, you can discuss how you feel about the problem and work on common understanding. Even if you don’t find the perfect compromise or solution, you’ve at least established an emotional connection with one another.
Although talking about your feelings sounds simple, we all know that often it’s not. If it were, you probably wouldn’t have these problems in the first place, right?
What would help? I hear you ask.
Let me invite you to go back through this Connection Buster series and put into practice the suggestions offered, your relationship will thank you for it!