How to Address Relationship Problems
I am so frequently approached with questions as they relate to an inability for individuals to have their concerns addressed that it really calls for me to explain a whole new concept for individuals to work from in their relationship. I, unashamedly, promote acceptance and forgiveness, but this doesn’t, at all, imply that the relationship is meant to be static (unchangeable). We are functionally in dynamic romantic relationships; your partner changes and the world changes around both of you. I want you to have your issues to be addressed, but it is going to require that you still participate in the relationship.
When negativity exists in a relationship, individuals often realize that they have an excuse or reason to remove their emotional energy from the energy, and why not, one’s partner did so, too. This is all too common, but it is not common for any particularly good reason. These propensities for interpersonal interactions are not particularly well thought out, meaning that there are consequences to externalized negativity, regardless of the excuse or reason for its employment. So, how does one get what they want, especially when their romantic partner is stubborn? Does this not imply a need for a stern, strict or (possibly) a scolding attitude towards one’s partner?
One needs to first address whether their chosen course of action actually addresses their main concern. If one has an issue with their partner not doing their half of the home’s chores, then how is the silent treatment actually addressing that problem? It isn’t. As such, the typical negativity externalized tends to be along passive-aggressive lines, meaning that the one that is charged with relationship crimes is supposed to feel bad for what they have done and, more or less, chase after the offended one.
This response is rationalized more than you could possibly believe, but I want to point out that the offended partner usually has tried “being nice” first, but the experience is a negative one, which has the propensity to form avoidance or aversions to relational discourse.
If one has already tried the “nice guy” (or gal) approach, then one may assume that they have done everything possible, meaning that they can rationalize stepping back or reciprocating negativity. Because of this, I had to develop a model so that individuals have additional firepower, if you will. The key element to getting the complaining spouse their reward of positive relational change is my 3-step/phase approach. It is that which I operate from when coaching clients.
To get the change, we have to realize that it will be uncomfortable for us and for our romantic partner. As stated, we may have negative experiences with trying to address concerns in the past, only met with some self-defense mechanism. The best sign is if one recruits their romantic partner into the process, at the onset, but it is not always viable or required. What we have to do is use efficacious solutions that don’t bring with them negative externalities. That is, we have to understand the entire system at play and act accordingly.
In a romantic relationship, by definition, we are dealing with someone that we love, otherwise, it wouldn’t be worth any effort. This implies the necessity of treating the other partner with a base amount of positive love and respect, even if it is not (per unit of measurement) reciprocated. We then spend a reasonable amount of energy on personal betterment and trying to objectively understand our romantic partner. We have to realize that our approach coming into marital betterment may be flawed, meaning that we might be focused on our perceptions and not fully understanding the situation (and partner) at hand. Attachment theory (Bowlby 1973, 1980) explains how anxious and avoidant attachments degrade an individual’s ability to empathize with others, especially their romantic partner. This means that we can be raised, in a certain way, leaving us with difficulty to understand and feel the emotions of others (principally) before ourselves. The perceptions we have could be entirely flawed, almost ensuring there is no ability to have a constructive dialogue between romantic partners.
In conclusion, the general process to relationship betterment is to assess whether one’s partner is receptive to joining the process or by agreeing to address the requested change. Absent of that, which is entirely normative, we work with the complaining/offended individual to better understand the situation and their partner. With a better understanding of the context, we then work on maximizing the effectiveness of the approach, working under the reality of possible (often persistent) negative reception by one’s partner. With a viable approach, backed by well-thought-out intentions, we almost ensure the positive change that we desire. If no results come, then it tends to imply a deep divide in the relationship, meaning that we escalate through the 3-phase approach and, finally, assess whether the relationship is worth dissolving or by coping.
Bowlby, J. (1973). Attachment and loss: Vol. 2. Separation. New York, NY: Basic Books. Bowlby, J. (1980). Attachment and loss: Loss, sadness and depression (Vol. 3). New York, NY: Basic Books