This post was written by a guest writer and may or may not reflect tourewriter.com's views on the matter discussed below. Author's note: Keep in mind, this is only part of a series of thinkpieces- a few small posts to those in relationships to offer some tips to keep your communication flowing smoothly. I am by no means an expert or a marriage counsellor, just hoping to spread some helpful advice I have found from such people in my travels across the internet. Some of these techniques are also my own personal rules of thumb as well, which I have used in my own life and believe to be effective. The purpose of this thinkpiece is not to perfectly cure a rocky relationship, but rather, to offer some tips and possible techniques you might not have thought of. If your relationship is truly in trouble, then a little blog post like this will likely be of limited use to you, and my overall advice to you would be to schedule some couple’s counselling.
In relationships of any kind, communication is key. We’ve been told this repeatedly but whilst both communication itself and the implementation of it within a relationship is pretty simplistic, it might be too simple for its own good. Communication can break down between two people just because they feel they know the other one too well. It can be so simple and easy to do that we just forget to do it. So, whilst it is true that communication is key, individuals in any relationship may lose track of it. So here are some simple tips to assist in remembering to communicate with your partner.
Tip one: Relationship counselling- get it early!
Prevention is better than a cure. That’s another thing they say, yet this isn’t typically associated with relationships. It should be. Maybe there is a stigma against getting it, some perception of weakness as a couple, but which truly is the weaker relationship: the one which notices themselves getting off track and work together to fix it, or the one which allows itself to fly off the rails, ending in a few miserable years limping along before crashing and burning into a messy separation fuelled by resentment and hatred? Never be afraid to get couple’s counselling- even if you see yourselves as a good couple. An objective outsider perspective can be very valuable, and you would be much better heeding the advice of a professional than, say, your friends who only have a partial picture of the situation at best, but also have their deep-rooted bias as well.
Something that cropped up a lot in my research of the subject is that couples often wait far too long to get counselling. It’s treated as an absolute last resort- a cure rather than prevention. The truth is that counselling might be completely ineffective if you put it off for too long; if you have waited until communication is nothing but snide quips, sarcastic jabs at each other and full-blown arguments, then there might just be too much animosity to fix it. Counselling should be sought when you first notice the signs, the lack of communication between the two (or more) of you, and the distance growing. Of course, another element that should be in play is that both of you must be willing to fix the relationship. If one of you has already checked out of the relationship, then it might be next to impossible to bring it back from the dead. You can’t force someone to love and care about you if they just don’t, even if they once did. Sounds harsh, but so too is the reality of a collapsing relationship. That is another reason to get in on counselling early- it is much easier when both of you still care. Just get counselling early. In a sense, the worst news you can receive once you’re there is the same bad news you would receive anyway- just much more drawn out and painful without a counsellor’s assistance.
Tip two: Resentment- the serial killers of relationships.
Something which also came up in my research time and again was that relationships can be very sturdy things. They can survive so much if they have the correct foundation: bereavement, financial ruin, job loss, natural disasters, toxic family and friends, even adultery on occasion just to name a few. It depends on the context of these things of course, but something which marriage therapists all seem to agree on is that resentment is the thing that murders relationships more than anything else. Which makes sense, really; love is built on mutual trust and respect, and if your significant other performs some action that breaks that trust or gives you a perception of them which you feel you can’t respect, then that may be the beginning of the end for many relationships.
It can be seen in all varieties of relationships, not only romantic ones. The insidious part to resentment is that more often than not, it doesn’t come from a single action committed by one partner- it can do, as attested by every person who tried to make a failed relationship work after one partner cheated- but resentment often comes from small actions over years at a time. This may be because some don’t observe the more annoying aspects of their spouse’s personality during the honeymoon phases of the relationship. When a relationship first begins, small flaws are ignored or explained away in the euphoria of new love, but over time, they become clearer: does he care a lot about family or is he just an insufferable momma’s boy? Is she a strong independent career woman or does she just not value relationships? Are they childish and fun, or are they just adult babies? There are two sides to every personality trait, and the same traits a person may hand-wave away during the extra-romantic honeymoon phases may come back over the following years of a relationship to bite them. But resentment is a relationship killer that strikes when it isn’t noticed; the way to avoid being a stereotypical resentful married couple is simply to realise and reconcile your grievances before they boil into resentment for your partner.
The 70/30 Rule for Relationships
To start, before even beginning a relationship (of any kind) I would recommend the 70/30 rule. This is a personal rule of thumb I use in my daily life which I think might be a helpful thing for others to keep in mind. The 70/30 rule goes as follows: no one you meet will ever be 100% awesome. They will always be a certain percentage of awesome, and a certain percentage of total garbage. This is because personality traits, both good and bad, tend to coincide. If a person is strong and confident, there’s probably a chance they have an ego about them. If a person is deeply affectionate and wants to be around you all the time, don’t be surprised if this coincides with clinginess after a while. But you don’t want to waste time with someone more garbage than awesome, so 70/30 should be the minimum balance I would recommend for a new friend or partner. After all, if 4/10 times you hang out with them, you leave feeling worse than when you met up, that’s almost half the time you spend with them ending with you feeling bad. Of course, there will be 80/20 people or even 90/10, but no one is 100% amazing.
Keeping this rule in mind is one of the best ways to avoid future resentment in my opinion. It encourages you to understand their ratio of awesome to garbage, but really ask yourself if your partner’s 30% of awful is a 30% you can handle. In a constant partner, this 30% is going to be something that is (presumably) going to be in your living space for the rest of your life. Sometimes, someone’s 30% makes them someone you will only want to spend the occasional hang out with, and not want to date- and there is nothing wrong with that. But this means that once you are aware of your partner’s potential 30%, your job is to reconcile with it in your mind. Come to terms with it, and find peace with the annoying habits, or else the alternative is either to reprimand them about it to no avail or grow resentful over time. Naturally, this doesn’t apply to actual bad behaviour, big actions of thoughtlessness or cruelty should always be called out, but if a person has been non-romantic since the start and that element of them as a person has been dismissed by you during the honeymoon phase, don’t expect Valentine’s Day three years in to be rom-com perfect. Remember, as with all the tips on this list, these tips should be practised by both partners in a relationship- be patient and find peace with their little annoying habits because remember, you too have your 30%.
So, what this all means is that sometimes, communication in relationships is about knowing what to say to each other, and what not to say to each other. If there is a detrimental action performed which will lead to resentment, for example, if you were promised a day together and your SO has cancelled it last minute to work and that hurts your feelings- then don’t keep it to yourself. Big actions performed which hurt your feelings, even if that wasn’t the intention by your partner, is the perfect recipe for resentment if it is kept down inside and not mentioned. Talk it through, but don’t accuse, argue, or scream or that won’t be constructive. We will talk about constructive arguments in a later part. But this also means that you need to understand what elements are integral (if a bit annoying) to your partner’s personality and are therefore things you will need to reconcile with. Constant picking at things that will ultimately never change about your partner will just sour the atmosphere.
So there you have it, part one of this series of relationship articles. I hope you had a good read and might consider sharing this with any couples that may need it.