You need relationship help if your relationship is attacked by toilet seats and toothpaste tubes!
If you find yourself arguing with your partner about the same small issues–toilet seats, toothpaste tubes, garbage, food habits–you are likely wearing out the relationship when you should be working on yourself!
You could be using that time to create greater understanding and deeper intimacy. It’s a choice…but not one you can make unless you take the time to tune into and tune up your approach to your partner.
Many times, clients will come to me with the laundry list of “he always” and “she nevers.” You know those because you have heard them so often you may not even be paying attention to them any more. (If you need a little extra reading on that, read this All Or Nothing Thinking blog post.) Those examples of “all-or-nothing thinking” are the slush funds of the complaints department for both partners. When in doubt, sling an accusation of always and never and go for the win! Bad idea.
Of course, it is highly unlikely that anyone does anything always or never. It just demonstrates a lack of clarity about what is going on in the minute, or an inability to face what needs to be faced. One partner wants to land the final blow, and “always” and “never” seems lethal and broad-reaching enough to shut the other up or down.
So, what does that say about the one who tries to cap off the conversation with that ultimate blow? It says to me that:
- they cannot or will not focus on the issue that is on their mind in the present moment
- they want to be right more than they want to build the relationship
- they want control because they are afraid of or do not have the skills of true partnership
- they are frustrated and out of words
- they do not have the insights or skills to address an issue
- they are afraid and want the pain to go away sooner rather than later
- they really don’t care about the relationship
Now, one or several of those things may be true. What is most likely is that they simply do not have the skills, nor the confidence or maturity, to actually talk through an issue with their partner. That sounds a bit tough, but it’s true.
Very few people have had great relationship models in their lives: parents or other relatives who demonstrated what a healthy, mutually-supportive, communicative relationship looks and sounds like. If we don’t have the models, we’ll do what we have seen, especially at our worst moments!
Very few people go to get relationship help early enough. They wait until things are at the “I’m out of here!” stage before seeking help. That’s a cardinal error. When you learn about yourself, you can then begin to see yourself as your partner might see you. That’s a big learning right there. Then, add skills in communication, conflict management, negotiation, and relationship building and you’ve got a whole new world of partnership possibilities.
Scary? Initially, maybe. You do have to step out and let the professional know that you need skills, strategies, insights and just plain ol’ help. That scares some folks because they think they are supposed to be able to manage, handle, and deal with relationships well on their own. Who said? Strong, assertive people ask for help when they need it. Weak, passive people don’t. They put it off, hoping things will morph on their own. That’s magical thinking!
Don’t let toilet seats and toothpaste tubes sabotage your relationship. If you’re arguing over small things repeatedly, step outside and ask yourself this question:
“What do I want as a result of this exchange?”
before you open your mouth to bring up an issue. Do you want the same old run around conversation that goes nowhere and both partners walk away wounded, or at least, shaking their heads in disappointment that their partner really is the difficult person who will neither listen or change?
You will be surprised at the effectiveness of asking that question before you open your mouth. If you want the run-around conversation again, just jump in. If you want any hope of actually solving something, stick with the issue and be the first to listen. Do not escalate the issue beyond what is going on RIGHT NOW. NO “always”. NO “never”. NO “your mother wears trench boots”, either.
Stick with the one issue and do your best to resolve it or come to an agreement about how to handle it in the future. If one partner wants to escalate, the other is wise not to go there. S/he can simply repeat:
“This issue in this minute is all I am willing to talk about right now. I am happy to talk about other issues at another time. Will you work on this one thing with me now?
So whether it is toilet seats, toothpaste tubes, or plans for an upcoming road trip, one issue in the present moment at a time. No whopping broad strokes of “always” and “never” and slights against one another’s upbringing!
And get relationship help so that things don’t grow too big and bowl you over.
© Dr. Rhoberta Shaler, The Relationship Help Doctor. If you are experiencing verbal abuse, emotional abuse, or any other thing in your relationship that has you feeling trapped, degraded, and angry, start by downloading my free ebook, How To Spot A Hijackal , and then join my Closed Facebook group, Optimize Life, to get the insights, strategies, and support you need to make positive changes. ForRelationshipHelp.com