Why is it so hard for couples to talk to each other if something is bothering them? Small problems that could easily be discussed and resolved in one conversation are left alone in hopes that they will resolve themselves. But the longer they are left, the bigger they get. Initially, the person might think, “oh my partner is too busy with work, she’ll notice soon enough that I am upset or hurt about this” but after a while of not noticing, he then starts thinking, “she actually doesn’t really care about me enough to notice” or “work always seems to take up her attention, I am not priority” and even “she is deliberately ignoring my frustration and anger now”. A simple issue then goes from being small and easily managed to now accumulating multiple layers of hurt, mistrust and misunderstanding. Now we have several issues to unravel and resolve, on top of the initial concern.
So why do people do this? Why can’t they just say what’s on their mind as soon as it comes up, saving their partner and themselves more hurt, pain and anger? Well the simple truth is that it’s easier and less risky. It’s easier to let things be, in hopes of working themselves out, than to actively try to resolve it ourselves and risk failure or causing a bigger conflict. If things don’t resolve themselves, then you can always blame it on a hundred different things or on your partner, but if you try and it doesn’t work out, then you may conclude “I failed”. The conflict might even get bigger – before your partner was only quietly sulking, but now she is yelling and hurling all kinds of accusations at you.
So why even bother?
Well…you bother because in order to build a genuine relationship, where there’s intimacy and closeness, you have to risk it – you have to risk being vulnerable, you have to risk being wrong, you have to risk having an argument; you have to risk opening up as an individual to get closer as a couple. You have to take that dread step, you have open up and talk about what’s bothering you, instead of waiting for your partner to magically read your mind and make it all better.
The truth is, taking responsibility for your feelings and needs and expressing them to your partner in a clear and open manner is a sign of maturity. It’s a sign that you genuinely understand how love and relationships work and the purpose of a partnership. You understand that when a conflict arises, when one person is hurt by the other, the way to resolve it is to talk about it because adults use their words. Mind reading and the silent treatment or passive aggressive remarks and actions are signs of emotional immaturity and what children do because they haven’t yet mastered the use of language. You would never go to the doctor and expect her to diagnose you without explaining what’s causing you discomfort, nor would a supervisor expect his employees to do good work if he hasn’t clearly explained what he expects of them.
Similarly, for a relationship to work well and conflicts to be resolved effectively, both individuals need to be actively engaged in the process of opening up and sharing their thoughts and feelings in order to repair the problem, especially the one with the hurt feelings. It’s time to move past the old, immature notion that thinks ‘love’ gives your partner magical powers to read your mind, know exactly what you’re upset about and fix the problem. It’s simply not true and believing it does a lot of damage to relationships. Your partner is a person just like you and his/her magical mind reading powers are just about as remarkable as yours or, as I like to think, ‘as unreliable as yours’. So the next time you are peeved, open up and tell your partner what’s going on. You can then more quickly get on with the fun part of arguments… the making up.