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#15 How to Approach Problems in a Relationship

How do you approach hard topics in a relationship? You will learn 4 specific ways to communicate about problems. It’s important to dialogue not have parallel monologues.

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After almost 40 years of working to help couples, I offer a podcast of substance on what relationships require to last for the long haul. I use books & movies to illustrate the points I’m trying to make. I offer challenges of things you can actually do in your own relationship at the end of every podcast which is under 10 minutes.

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This episode is in response to my first audience request. I’m always rattling on about how you have to learn to talk about hard problems in relationships, so it seems like an excellent idea to discuss whats required to be successful. I’m going to cover 4 ideas:

#1. Courage is the quality I would pick to sprinkle on the world to make it a better place. In a world that is full of avoiding & deflecting, so it is all too easy to say:
“Oh, Let’s Not talk about that now”. You have to care enough about yourself to bring things up, especially if your partner is more invested in avoiding in relationships because they like the status quo. Let’s use the example mistreatment of you when the other person is drinking. Don’t talk about serious things when drinking . A good way to Soften a hard topic is to acknowledge they probably are not aware of it ( I believe the first thing to go when drinking is self awareness) and stay on topic, don’t let it be dismissed. “No, this did not happen as a one off, it’s happened twice & I don’t want it to become a pattern. Then get agreement that it won’t happen again. If you can’t let go of feeling mistreated I honestly believe your soul is talking to you & saying this is not OK.
Most importantly don’t give up without trying to find your courage.

#2. Can you accurately reflect to your partner their view or position on things? It’s a lot easier when someone feels heard to listen to a different point of view. Also make it an US problem instead of a you problem.

Let’s take the topic of lack of sex as an example. I believe this is one of the toughest subjects to bring up. “I know that sex doesn’t seem to matter as much to you because you are working so hard to get ahead but it is a great stress reliever & I’d like to talk about what makes it hard for both of us to make it happen more often. Maybe we can figure it out together instead of both of us avoiding it.

#3. Present your desires without Nagging or Bitching. A Negative tone squelches the possibility for dialogue. Give the other person room to say what’s important to them especially if you don’t want to hear it. I want you to Consider the idea that you need to hear it because reality really matters.
I want to repeat that, as much as so many of us avoid reality it really matters. When my Dr. told me I had high cholesterol & was pre-diabetic 5 1/2 years ago I needed to hear that harsh truth & I decided to exercise every day & I’ve stayed committed 6 or 7 days a week, as much as I don’t love it. Reality really does matter.

If the reality is that you want kids & he doesn’t then you need to move on. You can’t keep pretending that he will change his mind, the only question is do you want to give up on kids as a possibility. If he remains vague it might be because he is happy with the status quo. You may be participating in accepting the vagueness because you don’t want to go back to being single. Dating can be a gruesome business but you have to decide what matters to you & have the self respect to go after it, instead of what so many people do: ignore it & let the resentments build over time.

#4. Do both of you recognize that sacrifices must be made in order to solve problems? One test of love is that both people must invest in is making sacrifices to help each other out. If only person makes all the sacrifices this doesn’t count.

In 1975 I loved my job working at a settlement house in an african american neighborhood. My husband had tried 3 different work positions since graduation and wasn’t really happy in any of the three. I encouraged him to take the risk of going into business for himself which meant leaving behind my job & a location where we were close to family. We had no money & I really wanted him to find success so we took a big risk & moved to Pittsburgh, a city we had never even visited until we decided to move there. I made sacrifices to do this.

When you make sacrifices for each other, then you believe in each other & you can take risks into the uncomfortable unknown because you have the certainty of being a team; in it together.

I’ve already mentioned the couple on TV that demonstrates all of these 4 qualities: Madam Secretary. They are outstanding in being there for each other, they are clearly a team that sacrifices for each other & they disagree with respect.

I’m going to add one more idea, while it is not about approach in a relationship it is about an approach within yourself.
Let’s consider Happiness which is like chasing after a chicken that does not want to be caught:

#5. Recognize Happiness is a byproduct not an end goal. People imagine more $$ will make them happy when research says 70,000 is where happiness taps out
with money. The Week magazine of 11/24/15 reports that happiness is not high in the United States because Americans are isolated, feeling a lack of connection and also due to poor work-life balance. Americans work longer hours & take less vacation time than those in any other developed nation.

Feeling happy requires knowing what really matters & an adjustment to expectations. There will never be one single relationship that can satisfy all your needs so don’t blow things up because you demand too much or accept too little because you are afraid to be alone. Everyone tilts one way or the other, the secret to success lies in the middle ground. Try to figure out if you demand too much or too little. It’s important to be self aware & recognize your own problems in order to be part of a healthy couple.

So my challenge to you today is to ask you to: Stop & ask yourself what have you sacrificed for your partner/and or the relationship? Consider whether the sacrificing is lopsided or mutual. Do you feel like a team in it together because you both have sacrificed without resentment?
Does your partner sidestep certain topics because they have already described a reality that you choose to ignore?
Do you work yourself up into a dogmatic monologue about all you are unhappy with or do you try to address issues calmly? Can you present issues with an US point of view of how you both contribute to the problems in the relationship? & finally ask yourself
what have you been avoiding that you need to find more courage to talk about

Thanks for listening. Follow me on instagram & twitter @rhodaoncouples

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