I Can't Believe You Said That
We all hold back saying certain things because we know it will upset our partner. We stuff things and hope they will pass or the emotional content will simmer down, Sometimes that works and some times it doesn’t. When it does, whew. And when it doesn’t – hold on , extra doses of emotional baggage are about to be delivered. We say we are biting our tongues because we don't want to hurt our partner or friends, but the greater truth is we fear the consequence that will be coming our way once we speak our truth.
Therapists want people to get in the habit of sharing their feelings and thoughts. The idea being:
1. The more often you do it the better you will get at it
2. The less build up there will be
3. It gives you something intimate to do with your partner
4. The result of all this is that more often than not you end up feeling and thinking you are closer.
So, whether you do what you want or not, more often than not you will benefit from talking about how you feel/think and what you would like. You can share your reluctance to share along with whatever it is you are sitting on. Chances are if you are reluctant to share something it is for good reason and you will need to be prepared for a reaction. While you might wish to avoid that reaction the odds are if you deal with something sooner the reaction will be less severe than if you withheld something for a longer time.
No matter how great your relationship is there will be conflict. It is inherent in the design. When you are by yourself you have total control over what you do. You do what you want to do when and how you want to do it. Your conflicts are with yourself. Once you are in a relationship those internal conflicts continue but you add on another external layer. You may choose to stay home and watch a game and she may want to go out and visit with friends. Left alone, you’d watch the game. In a relationship more often than not you are going out.
Most people did not have the best role models for dealing with conflict. Few of us ever took a course on how to conflict well. You’d think that with all the other stuff they teach you in school they might throw in some essential life skills. But, most of us pick up our skills along the way which are a combination of what we learned at home, what we figured out with friends and the occasional media example that carried itself into our life.
One conflict skill you might want to think about is how good a job do you do of understanding the other(s) point of view. Even when you are in conflict with yourself – say for example about whether or not to eat dessert, is always good to begin any conflict with the question – What do I really want? Lots of arguments would be reduced if you could enter it knowing what is of primary importance to you.
Once you know what you want then you can focus on what the other wants (or what are the reasons not to do what you want). The better job you can do of fully comprehending and empathizing with the other’s point(s) of view the easier it will be for you to come to a decision about how to resolve the conflict. The more you can understand and appreciate their point of view (I am not saying you have to agree with it - just understand why they feel/think what they do), the better job they will do of understanding your point of view. Once you both have a better grasp of the overall picture it usually helps you come to a resolution.
At no point in any conflict is the phrase –“You are an asshole” or something akin to it allowed into the conversation. Conflicts are hard enough to resolve without name calling. It doesn’t matter whether you are calling yourself a “Shit head” or them, it is not going to help. And it usually hurts. If you want to resolve conflicts stop the name calling. If you want to escalate the situation, then go right ahead.
To resolve a conflict in a mutually satisfying way you need to ask this question out loud: “How do we resolve this in a mutually rewarding way?” Then listen. Consider. And put your own proposal on the table. Hear theirs. No faces, smirks or asides. Keep trying to find a solution till you find a path. If you want to know more about conflict resolution there are chapters in all my books. Learning how to conflict well is a critical issue in all relationships and one we all can improve upon.