He said he will call at 6pm. Ten minutes before, he gets called in to an urgent meeting. When he calls at 7pm as he walks out of his meeting, she doesn’t answer. She is furious, feeling that he doesn’t really care and everything and everyone else is more important. We make assumptions about what the other person is thinking; but we don’t talk anymore.
In my coaching practice, I come across couples that are both amazing people on their own, but together, seem to drive each other crazy. The majority of the time, each one is assuming they know what the other is thinking and feeling. We know our own thoughts and feelings but it’s a huge mistake to assume we know our partner’s thoughts and emotions 100% of the time.
Arguments that start with, “You think I’m a fool” or “You feel you’re better than me” often end in, “You clearly don’t know me.” We are all master story makers. When our partner does something nice for us, we immediately make up a story that the other person loves and respects us, which is often true. However, when they do something that annoys us, we forget the love and respect and instead make up the story that they don’t care and that we are unimportant to them. This story is more often not true.
Now I’m not talking about extreme cases of abuse and addiction here. Those are acts of selfishness that need to be dealt with immediately. I am talking to couples who love and respect each other, but often misunderstand the other person’s actions and this ends in an argument.
When we make assumptions rather than engaging in a deep, meaningful conversation, we keep our relationship on a superficial level and vacillate between an acceptable calm and feeling misunderstood. Living from our ego also means that whenever there is a difference of opinion, we always feel that we are right and the other is wrong and we want to prove that we are right. So the argument escalates. Would you rather be right or happy?
We go through 12 years of school and another few years of tertiary education, but we are not taught how to create deeply healthy, happy relationships that are mutually beneficial. We are not taught how to consciously create a relationship that evolves and inspires both partners to live their potential. We are not taught how to communicate to get our needs met or to resolve conflict when it occurs. As independent adults, we will have similar opinions on certain subjects and we will have opposing opinions on other subjects. When we know, love and accept ourselves fully, it is easier to accept our partners as they are, including the differences.
However, blind acceptance is its own folly. There are 3 aspects to any relationship. The first are the things we have in common. This is the glue that keeps us together. It may be spirituality, family values, work ethic or perhaps just enjoying the same music or movies.
The second category is the differences that don’t actually impact each other. Perhaps he likes playing golf and she likes meeting her friends for coffee. You can easily do this on your own and we actually need to have this category present to maintain our sense of self.
The third aspect is when we have differences that do impact each other. Different religions or perhaps one is a neat freak and the other leaves a wet towel on the floor or different parenting styles. This is the area where we need to learn to resolve conflict so that we end up with a win-win solution and not a win-lose scenario. It challenges us to be better and do better. We learn to compromise and look at the bigger picture of what is truly important to the relationship, not just the individuals. This third category is what makes us learn and grow as human beings. We need to learn new skills to achieve different results.
So the next time there’s a difference in opinion between you and your partner, I encourage you to keep the communication lines open. Stonewalling and not taking calls is a childish way of avoiding what could potentially be the conversation that takes your relationship to a deeper level of understanding and acceptance.
The deeper conversations are not always easy; but if you choose to remember that you love each other and you want to be in this relationship; it’s definitely worth it.
Kas Naidoo – Life Coach / Speaker / Workshop Leader