When a relationship gets into trouble it can be a time of great uncertainty, confusion, and even pain. It doesn’t matter if it is a personal one, like a marriage (Note to PC Guys: I’m using the term figuratively not literally), or a business relationship. If it is important, at some time, differences will inevitably appear.
How they are expressed can easily be confused with the core problem, with the result that time and effort are wasted, and the relationship may fail.
All too often, when a relationship gets into difficulty the early signs go unnoticed, ignored, or denied. Later on, when things have ‘got serious’ the indicators (arguments, differences, problems communicating) are seen as ‘the problem’, whereas really, they are symptoms of a relationship that’s not working as well as it could.
The answer? Well, there are many, but the one I’m giving here is about honesty and self-awareness early in the relationship. Dysfunctional relationships are perpetuated and allowed to grow because both parties collude in avoiding things that really need to be discussed and resolved; neither side dares or knows how to raise the topic, things drift on… etc.
- Sorting this out means first understanding yourself, your needs, and your identity. If this is difficult to do it’s only because you lack practice, so stick at it.
- The next thing that needs to happen is usually the hardest because it is potentially inflammable. Engaging the other person in meaningful conversation about the relationship, why it exists, and what you are expecting it to do for you both, will fail unless you both share a ‘higher vision’ about the relationship’s importance to you. Start small (“Yes we both agree we want the protect and grow the relationship”), and at all costs avoid talking about what’s ‘wrong’ with it (All relationships have things that are ‘wrong’, focus on that and you’ll soon fulfill your own predictions).
- You’ve started, you can find your own way from there. Keep the conversation going, don’t ever expect to finish it or settle anything (successful couples keeps this channel open and revisit it regularly as part of the relationship maintenance strategy).
The thing is, for a relationship to survive and flourish, both parties need to be mature enough to face what needs doing, and get on with it. Success is defined not by the absence of disputes, but by how well you deal with them as they arise. You can’t do that until the foundations have been properly laid.
If your relationship puts you at serious risk of emotional or physical harm, get out or get help. I am not suggesting that you should patch up something that threatens your safety.