When relationship problems go from niggling to nasty, there are two directions to go: towards bitter, or towards better.
And, for some reason, it seems much easier for folks to go towards bitter! How about you?
As a mediator and counselor, I have worked with hundreds of folks who have complaints about their relationships. Each couple who came to see me said they both wanted the relationship to work and were willing to do the work. Some were quite obviously dragged to the first session, too. If I had $1000 for each couple who said they were willing but sat there with balloons over their heads that read:
“Our relationship will be just fine if you’ll just fix her or him and make them see the error of their ways.”
I’d have a nice nest egg.
Unfortunately, we seem to be more comfortable looking for ways to end relationships rather than ways to fix relationships. That would be why the US divorce rate is now at 53% of marriages. We seem more inclined to look at what’s wrong rather than what’s right. And, we love to feel what we believe to be justifiable anger and look for folks to agree with us.
Is fix the right word for relationships? Yes, because it means “to make firm and stable.” And, we want to do that first. We want to stop and put the legs under it again. Only then, when we handle what’s going on with the person with whom it is going on, can we use the occasional–or repeated– differences that spring up as springboards to enriching our relationships and gain insights into its health or lack thereof.
One great way to make sure you’ll go to the bitter side is to talk about your partner to anyone within dialing distance! Especially when you do it before you talk to your partner. That’s a big problem because, when you do the “ain’t it awful’s” and “s/he’s doing me wrong” polls with your friends, you are really building a case, and those folks are your jury. Your partner has been tried without benefit of input , understanding or defense. That’s just wrong!
Sure, it can be wise to talk over an issue with your ONE most trusted confidante. You may think things through more clearly when you talk about it. It may give you an opportunity to get rid of your rash anger and put the relationship–or the deed or omission–in a better perspective. But, stop there! No polling. No jury tampering! Every time you tell the story, you incite your own emotions. Why would you do that to yourself? That’s a recipe for disaster and you’re doing it without giving your partner the benefit of the doubt, the truth, the facts or the opportunity to explain.
Oh, and <cringe> if you happen to get your knickers in a twist about something somebody else told you about your partner, and then you go on your dialing for drama kick, you’re going to end up in a much worse place that any of this usually deserves. And, you’re headed down the bitter trail. (OK, if your partner killed someone without your knowledge, that’s a different matter.)
Sure, stuff happens. Some of it is upsetting. Some of it is shocking. Some of it is repeated. Some of it is annoying, irritating and frustrating. But, as no one else is having your relationship, the only person who needs to hear about the problem first is your partner. Yes, I know, there is significantly less drama in that. It is a very emotionally grown-up thing to do.
Your choice, though. Do you want your relationship to move towards bitter, or better?