Once the honeymoon phase is over, conflicts start to arise in relationships. This is a natural stage in a relationship and can be worked through. Often times, we get stuck in this phase, and the relationship starts to deteriorate only to continue in a downward spiral. Unrealistic expectations are often the cause. We all come into relationships with beliefs of how a relationship should work and how a partner should act. These beliefs come from our family of origin and our past relationship experiences. The problem is that we may not have the same expectations as our partner. We may not even know these expectations exist; yet, we act on them.
You Both Have To Agree
One of the most common expectations I see in counseling couples is that both people believe they have to agree. It is unrealistic to think that you and your partner will always see eye to eye. As a matter of fact, it isn’t even necessary or realistic to think you will find a solution or compromise to every disagreement. You can agree to disagree peacefully.
So many couples come to counseling wanting their partner to see things their way and to change their partner’s behavior. They are disappointed when that does not happen. We all have a need to have some level of control in our life, but we do not have control over our partner. Demanding change only backfires. Both partners end up angry, behavior starts to deteriorate, and the marriage spirals downward.
So, if always agreeing and expecting your partner to change is not realistic, then what is? You can agree to disagree, but how do you do that and feel ok about it? The first and most important step in a conversation is for both partners to feel heard. This means you must be respectful of your partner’s views and let them know you understand where they are coming from. This means listening with no judgement, which can be difficult. Both parties need individual time to share their point-of-view and to feel heard. From there, you can either work on a compromise or agree to disagree. Just remember agreeing to disagree is an option.
Relationships Should Be 50/50
The belief that there should be equality in a marriage is very common. Relationships should be 50/50 is something you hear often. Realistically, relationships are more ebb and flow; very seldom are they equal. When you expect the relationship to be 50/50, you tend to keep score. The relationship can turn into a contest with a scoreboard. This leads to arguing and demanding of certain behaviors from your partner when things are not equal.
I see this in counseling sessions frequently. Couples are so busy scorekeeping and feeling like the other isn’t doing their share that they lose sight of the relationship and the love they have for one another. They end up angry a lot of the time. The alternative is to give 100% in the relationship. You want to have the mindset of being a team in your relationship. You work together and put the relationship first. When you are giving 100% and your partner understands that, they are more likely to give 100% back.
Giving 100% does not mean that you do everything in the relationship or shoulder all the burdens. It means that your partner knows you are 100% committed to the relationship. When you start to make the relationship a priority by doing small things on a daily basis, your partner will feel loved, accepted, safe, and cherished by you. Do something every day. It can be something small. Use words and actions to show your partner how much they mean to you. This approach will deepen your relationship instead of deteriorating it. It is a proactive approach to making your relationship a better one.
For more ways to strengthen your relationship, check out my book, Unmasking Secrets to Unstoppable Relationships.
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Lori Ann Davis, MA, CRS
Certified Relationship Specialist