Relationships – can there be a happily ever after?
We have expectations of our relationships. Perhaps they are formed in our childhood watching Disney princesses; perhaps it is watching movies where despite the trials the couple get together in the end. Yet as one wit said, the fairy tale happily ever after depends if you are Rumpelstiltskin or the Queen.
Relationships are a safe haven that we build against the world. We choose to be together with our partner and we create a life of shared values and meaning. Yet in being committed to each other we respect each other enough to have our own individual spaces.
Often the source of conflict in a relationship is the moment when different values create conflict. For example; I like to keep the flat tidy and clutter free – I am more of a clear it up at the weekend person. If left unchecked this can build into resentment and can attack the relationship, perhaps becoming; they don’t care for my feelings or they are doing it to annoy me.
Conflict is crucial to good relationships and when a couple is bad or avoidant of them the relationship often suffers. If you can cope with conflict then the relationship can benefit and become more open and honest and you will be ready to be vulnerable with your partner.
Doing conflict right means many things, but getting the basics right is important.
- Take turns and don’t talk over each other. It is as important to listen as to state your opinion and you can’t listen and interrupt at the same time.
- Talk about one issue. Talking about multiple issues confuses things and takes your focus and concentration of the important goal getting a solution.
- No hitting below the belt or digging up past history. It is important to be focused on solving your problems not hurting each other or creating new problems.
- If it gets too heated stop talking. If you get to a point where you are angry and shouting at each other – stop. You are not being productive and not moving towards a solution.
Often therapy can help in that process with the therapist offering you the space to tolerate all of the uncomfortable parts as you decide how best to make the relationship move forward. The reality is, the best chance is when both partners change and recognize the need for change in themselves. Often when couples come to therapy to fix their relationship, they want their partner to change. Yet change in one partner in a relationship makes a big impact and can bring about change in the other partner in response or as a consequence of that change.
Always remember that you are building a relationship and that safe haven needs work to build and maintain it. Sometimes that will be hard work. There will be good moments and stormy ones. Yet if you can learn to change and change together you can make the difference.
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About Graeme Orr
Graeme is a counsellor and author living and working on the south side of Glasgow. In his practice he sees a number of clients with emotional, anxiety and self-esteem that have relevance to us all. His articles are based on that experience and are offered as an opportunity to identify with, or to challenge you to make changes in your life.