Ignoring the elephant in the room is a common problem experienced in relationships. For many couples it is too often easier to overlook, disregard, minimise, ignore and even shut down when sexual or relationship problems arise in their relationships. But as a therapist, I know that this is the not the best way to cope with sexual, relationship or life difficulties. If anything, ignoring the big issues can cause many people to feel frustrated, angry, unheard, dissatisfied, unhappy, helpless, and even grief stricken. And that’s just the feelings they have, not to mention some of the behaviours people use to cope with their emotions. I suppose you’re getting my drift. Basically, it’s not good to ignore problems in your relationship.
So, why then, do we often ignore those very issues that cause us distress and unhappiness? Why do we wait until we’ve experienced a relationship crisis or until it is simply too late to take action? Here’s the answer:
It is common to ignore relationship and/or sexual difficulties because the act itself of thinking about them, let alone talking about them often causes us so much distress and unhappiness that we prefer to simply pretend they don’t exist. Furthermore, couples often worry that if they bring up the issues that are upsetting them, it will open up a Pandora’s Box of relationship dysfunction and pain that may never be solvable. It’s tough, but nutting through the issues that are important to you is an essential ingredient to creating a happy, respectful, loving and fulfilling relationship.
By practising the following simple communication strategies, you will be able to lovingly and respectfully connect with your partner on the issues that are affecting your relationship:
When discussing an issue use, “I feel…” statements- This means stopping the blame game and always bringing the events back to how they made you feel. For example, Instead of screaming, “You don’t want me!”, you can say “When you told me you didn’t want sex, I felt rejected, unwanted and undesirable”.
Nip it in the bud straight away- If something goes wrong, don’t wait weeks, months, years or even decades to talk about it with your partner. Find a calm moment when the both of you are free to sit down together and work through what happened. Invite your partner to do the same. Then set a date, time and location where the two of you can talk about your thoughts. You could even make this a weekly appointment.
Be aware of your own stuff- Do you have a tendency to get defensive, aggressive, angry or withdrawn when your partner approaches you with concerns? For relationships to be at their best, each individual must be conscious of their own destructive behaviours and thoughts and be actively engaged in working towards resolving them.
Challenge yourself to be present, receptive and responsive- No matter how hard it may be to hear, choose to acknowledge and accept your partner’s concerns.
Push through the discomfort- It is normal to feel awkward and uncomfortable when talking about sensitive issues in your relationship. The best way to deal with these feelings is to simply acknowledge them to yourself (and your partner) while also consciously choosing to move through them.
Reach out for help- If you’re struggling to resolve issues on your own, seek the advice of an experienced and qualified therapist who can guide and support you through the process.
So if you find yourself ignoring important aspects of your relationship, try changing your approach by utilising some of the techniques suggested in this article. And if you need any extra help...you guessed it...call a therapist for some expert guidance.