Pull the Weeds!
Clear Up Relationship Problems Sooner than Later
The other day I went outside to pull weeds that seemed to be everywhere in our yard. I was amazed at how with just a few weeks of neglect (and, let's face it, a whole lot of rain) at how bad they gotten. As I pulled (and cursed), I got to thinking about the problems that pile up in our relationships. I've written about this before in the post, Stop Piling Up Relationship Problems, but it's so critical that it's worth revisiting.
In my work with couples, I hear especially from men, "I didn't know how bad it was" or "I thought we were fine!" Here's a tip: If you're not hearing from your spouse at least every once in a while about something s/he is upset about, then there's probably a good chance the two of you are avoiding conflict and letting things pile up (or, someone is completely disengaging from the relationship and then you've got other problems). I know because I am master at avoiding conflict. It's just in my nature to "make peace." But it does no good to let things slide and let resentments build. The problems just keep piling up and pretty soon your relationship is filled with a bunch of ugly weeds. And, as any gardener will tell you, if you just stay on top of the weeding, it's not that much to manage. But don't, and you've got a big, time consuming problem on your hands.
Dealing with conflict on a regular basis doesn't mean arguing all the time. Arguing has nothing to do with solving problems. But, sharing, talking, listening, validating and getting into action has everything to do with resolving those little and big issues that just come up in trying to live out a committed, fulfilling life together. Doing this regularly requires just a little work, consistency and commitment.
Here are a couple of guidelines:
1. If you've got a big list of problems, tackle just one at a time. You'll be more effective and less overwhelmed if you just stick to one issue.
2. When talking about conflict, use these three S's. Keep it Short, Simple and Slow. In other words, don't talk for hours and hours about it. Communicate simply and directly about the problem. And slow down. Listen to each other. Take the time to make sure you understand what you're partner is saying before you rush in to share your point of view.
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