We all like to believe we will love someone forever. When we enter into a relationship we cannot imagine not loving everything about that person. This wonderful state lasts about two years and is known as the honeymoon period.
It’s complete insanity to think that love will carry us through every relationship crisis. We are surrounded by people getting divorced, yet we are eternally optimistic.
At no point during this blissful state do we take time out to gain some skills on how to talk to each other when the veil lifts and reality sets in.
Why on earth do his socks never make it into the washing basket? Why does she talk during the game? Can’t he at least wear a nice shirt when we go out to dinner? Does she have to have so many pairs of shoes?
We have two people who both think they are fine the way they are. Without any training, we expect these two people to have an adult conversation about the things they do that drive the other person insane. Mostly what happens is that if one person broaches the subject of relationship imperfection, the other person believes they are being attacked. Coping mechanisms include defensiveness, aggression, walking out and silent treatment.
“You don’t listen to me” is the favourite of all the complaints women make about men. Men do listen to women – when they are trying to win them over. A bit like a hunter. Once they have achieved the goal, there is no further purpose to hunt/listen. It’s just a theory. I haven’t proved it yet.
Remember: listening isn’t something you do with your ear pointed in the direction of your partner while the remote is in your hand and your attention is on the TV set. It’s about being present. Engaged. Interested. Making your partner feel valued and important to you.
From what I have seen, women also need to understand there is a time to talk to a man and a time to be silent.
Let’s see what it looks like to be an adult having a useful conversation in a relationship. When someone says – “You keep talking over me” – don’t say, “No I don’t”. Say, “Really? I didn’t realise. Thanks for letting me know. I better stop doing that. Let me know when I do it again.”
When someone says – “Can you do more housework?” – say, “Okay, let’s draw up a roster and work out who is responsible for which jobs and when they need to be done.”
Two adults in a relationship can negotiate these issues. Don’t stop until both parties are satisfied with the outcome. Until fairness has been achieved. Remember that while optimism is wonderful, it doesn’t glue a relationship together quite like being really interested in what you can do to make sure that the other person is willing to put up with you for another year or 20.
Be interested in your imperfections. It might save your relationship.