Love means never having to say you’re sorry…well, I’m not sure I agree with that statement. Today in a session, one of my clients was discussing her relationship with her boyfriend. She was telling me that when they argue, she is always the first to apologize, even when she doesn’t feel that the argument is her fault. Further discussion led to her stating that she often feels unappreciated and that she doesn’t feel that her feelings are validated by her boyfriend. Let’s be honest, relationships are tough. Especially in the first several months or the first year, when both members are attempting to learn the other’s boundaries and appreciate their differences. I am a firm believer that arguments in relationships are natural, and sometimes healthy. But, it is only if the arguments are discussed and changes are made to further help the relationship grow.
When working with clients who are having sexual issues in relationships, I always advise them to never discuss sexual problems with their partners in the bedroom. This statement should be applied for arguments. Never discuss the arguments at the time of the argument. I believe it is important to take responsibility for your actions in any situation, and this should apply to arguments as well. This does not necessarily mean that one person is weaker than the other because they are apologizing first. Let’s face it folks, we are with each other because we love each other and it hurts to argue because we don’t want to have hurtful experiences with that person. Take responsibility for your actions and walk away, try to enjoy the day and remember that life is too short. Sounds easy, right? Now the important part. After you have cooled down, and probably not even the same day, sit down with your partner and discuss these arguments and your feelings. But be willing to hear what they have to say. Truly healthy and loving relationships are where two people meet at a fork in the road and decide to venture on together. It is not easy hearing our faults. It is not easy hearing that we are difficult people too, but the reality is that none of us are easy, but from our perspective, we are right more often than not. Does it really matter who is right? Not if what we want is to be with that person and have a loving relationship. What we want is to be heard and validated. That is what is important, not being right.
If in fact the arguing is taking over the relationship, than maybe, as hard as this is to accept, this is not the relationship you are desiring, and then you have some difficult decisions to make. Arguments can help us understand the other persons needs and wants and to help the relationship to grow. None of us are promised a perfect relationship.
Don’t focus too much on the negative in a relationship. Embrace the positive and enjoy the awesome qualities in your partner. Some of the healthiest relationships I have seen are the most simple where both parties rarely question, but rather, enjoy the journey together. After all, you’re a team playing together in life. As my mother used to say, “Weeds grow fast in a garden and one day you look out of your window, and instead of beautiful daisies and lilies, all you have is stink weed.” Focus on the good. Life is too short. We’re on borrowed time as it is.
The next time an argument occurs, try this assignment. Set a coffee or lunch date to discuss the business operations of your relationship. Make this fun. Write out what you need from the other person, but keep it simple. No more than 3-5 expectations such as; “I need a romantic card every once in awhile” or “I need you to not walk out or threaten to leave when we argue”. Also include 2-3 statements of what your partner can expect from you. For example, “I will listen openly and take responsibility for my actions” or “I will attempt to be more romantic and passionate”. Agree to a small contract and each of you sign this contract. Sometimes, written affirmations of boundaries, even if not utilized, help the other person to visually see your needs because we all learn differently. At the end of your lunch date; make out or make love…it never hurts!