Samantha De Bono Counselling Bromley

Bromley & Harley Street

tel: 07588 931 401

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Relationships, A Work in Progress

by Samantha De Bono

It is my belief that when people decide to marry or cohabit, they are of the attitude that they want to spend time with each other. They want to share thoughts, opinions, experiences, ideas, feelings, likes and dislikes, etc,.

Would you agree that I'm probably on the right track here?

Clients of mine will have heard me say this time and time again – 'it's all about communication!' if you can get that right, most other things fall into place. Even if you don't agree, or don't share the same beliefs, communicated properly, in a way that can be heard and received well, can make not agreeing, productive and even enjoyable.

So what does being a good communicator mean?

It means accepting and understanding each others feelings. And the only way we can get to understand each others feelings, is if we express those feelings in a clear, honest and open way.

When we are upset with our partner, it is so easy to tell them what they've done wrong. When we do this, it generally has the opposite effect than what we were hoping for. Think about when your partner tells you off, or blames you for something. Do you feel like saying "thank you for making that all so clear to me darling, I completely understand and agree with you"? or do you blame your partner for an equally annoying thing they've done?

When we feel attacked, we usually become defensive, or we attack right back. We get into tit-for-tat arguments because we are not being heard and we are not listening either. We tend to try and score points at our partners expense and if we manage to shut them up with something we consider to be a verbal 'winning strike' all the better. This way of relating is very damaging to the relationship because neither partner feels valued.

So how do we avoid conflict in our relationships then? We don't! Why? because conflict, if handled well, can be immensely beneficial – a chance to grow together.

Instead of trying to place blame on our partner, we should be taking responsibility for how we are feeling. This is a powerful way to achieve resolution.

Example 1. "You are always on the phone!"

Example 2. "I would really like us to spend some time together".

In example 1, a partner is blaming and accusing. This will cause anger and resentment, defensiveness and/or counter attack. In example 2, a partner is asking for his/her need to be met in a clear, uncomplicated, non-accusatory manner. This is far more likely to have positive results.

In example 1, the partner is likely to be feeling, left out, lonely, neglected, hurt, unimportant, insecure, unwanted. But instead of sharing those feeling, he/she has lashed out verbally with criticism, blame and anger – he/she is attacking. If that person had said how he/she was feeling, such as "when you are on the phone for so long, I feel unwanted", the other person is aware of what is really going on, rather than wondering why her/his partner has gone off on a mad one, just because they're on the phone.

It can feel a bit scary to open yourself up like this, but unless you do, your partner has got to be a mind reader. If we want to be heard, then we need to say something that can be received well. We need to be clear and specific about our needs. Clear and specific is different to demanding and controlling though. "you should be with me, not on the phone" is not clear and specific, it's bullying and controlling. "I feel unwanted when you're on the phone so long, I'd like to spend more time with you" is clear and specific.

We get into a habit of arguing in a certain way and although we probably don't like it, we are comfortable with the format. It won't be automatic to start talking about how you are feeling, or asking for your needs to be met, you are more likely to slip automatically into attack and counter attack. But even if that happens, it's never too late to pull it back. If you've started arguing and you're on that all too familiar cycle, stop it. Say something like "this is getting us nowhere, what I really meant to say was I'm feeling.....". The more you practise it, the easier it will become and the more automatically you will do this in the future. It does take time, but if you really want resolution and change, then make it happen.

Relationships are a work in progress and we need to keep investing in them.