When you notice that your car is making a new noise, do you drive directly to the mechanic or leave it for a few weeks to see if it goes away?
What about when you start to feel new pain or symptoms in your body? Do you go to the doctor to get it checked out right away, or do you leave it until it’s too big to ignore anymore?
What about when you have something hard or uncomfortable that you need to communicate to a friend, spouse or partner? Do you talk about it right away, or do you let it build up inside you until you explode?
The question is … when something is wrong, are you more likely to address it right away or leave it to fester and hope it goes away?
What about this, does it sound like you? You set out to have a conversation with your spouse or partner about one thing, and all of a sudden, you are fighting about things that have happened over the last week, month, or even year. You keep a running list of frustrations you have with your partner, but wait until things are too big to ignore before you bring them up.
If your cheeks are getting a little red from the all too familiar conversation I just described, this one tip could help your relationship tremendously.
Learn to communicate the little things early and often before they become big things.
Learning to communicate the little things more often can be a powerful tool in your relationship. However, it takes practice to do it without sounding negative. Plus, for most of us, it does not come naturally.
In general, we like harmony. You like it when your relationship feels good and things are feeling happy and at peace — very few people actually enjoy fighting or conflict. When you bring up something to your partner, it can cause some friction or discomfort, so you do everything you can to avoid it. Let me tell you why I think this behaviour hurts us in the long run.
You get into a fight cycle.
What’s a fight cycle, you ask? It’s a circular pattern that goes something like this:
1. There is a fight or a big explosion.
You dump out all of the things and feelings bugging us to your partner. This build-up often feels like you are unleashing a fire hose on your partner. It is so intense and there is just too much to process at one time. Often, only one (or none) of the issues get solved. Usually you have created another because both of you are so overwhelmed that you say or do something hurtful in the process.
Communicating in this way means what once seemed like a simple thing has become a huge, hurtful and destructive fight.
We have all been here. And depending on how bad it gets, it could take hours, days or even weeks to repair the damage that the fight caused.
2. Harmony or honeymoon phase.
This is where you either repair the fight’s damage or decide to ignore it so that you can get back to feeling ‘normal’ again.
Everything is feeling good, maybe even great. You are at peace, and for the time being, you are feeling better. Even if things are not solved, you at least got it all off your chest. As functioning, breathing human beings we crave feelings of peace, comfort and safety.
Naturally, you try to stay here as long as you can. Sometimes too long. Hence the next phase.
3. The building phase.
In this phase, your once empty list of frustrations, hurts and grievances begins to fill again one by one. The only difference is at this stage of the cycle you are living in the harmony and honeymoon phase.
Neither one of you wants to disrupt the peace and general happiness you are feeling at this phase. So what do you do? You just push it down and avoid it. You try to ignore it, but with one frustration after another your list grows. Finally, BOOM! It explodes into a big fight, and the cycle starts all over again.
From my experience, if this cycle goes unaddressed over time, it speeds up the phases.
Instead of having months between blow-ups, it happens every month. Then quickly moves to every week. Then, daily. No matter where you fit into the former timeline, learning to have the courage and communication skills to share your small hurts and frustrations before they become big ones will help decrease (or even end) the explosive conflict cycle in your relationship.
So that’s the long-term win … That you eliminate explosive conflict in your relationship.
What are the short-term, immediate benefits?
When you learn to disrupt the harmony stage of the cycle early and often, you learn to actually resolve your issues instead of just ignoring them.
Because there is no build-up, and the conversation doesn’t get flooded with fifteen different issues, you can stay calm and focus on the single problem to solve. This means problems actually get solved. Which means you can return to a harmonious state almost immediately.
So, how do you learn how to communicate your hurts and frustrations early and often so that when you do disrupt the harmony phase, it is a positive experience?
You need a positive and shared framework for communication. One of the best places that you can build this as a couple is through The Marriage Course. Connexus is actually offering the course this Spring.
If you want to get out of the cycle and spend more time loving and less time fighting, make sure you sign up today. Why not make this Spring season a season of clearing out the conflict, even a fresh slate.
Great communication is the foundation of any marriage … Conflict, disagreements, frustrations, and hurt are a natural part of any relationship. Developing communication skills and a shared framework for conflict can help you thrive as a couple for the years to come.
So, how about it? Will you take a brave step to join The Marriage Course?
By Jordan Mason
Jordan is a life coach and counsellor with Mason Counselling. In his practice, his passion is to see families flourish, relationships succeed, and people continually pursue their next steps.