Misunderstandings in relationships can quickly spiral downward until the relationship ends with both partners feeling hurt and angry toward one another. Addressing warning signs that the relationship is starting to deteriorate can solve problems and keep a couple together. The key is recognizing the signs and changing them into positive communication opportunities.
Withdrawal and Avoidance
The first sign of misunderstanding in a relationship is withdrawing from important or uncomfortable discussions. One or both people in the relationship may wish to avoid discussing difficult topics such as finances or child discipline. One way to alter this avoidance is to review your past and determine if there were incidences in childhood or later in life that made you fear confrontation. If your partner is the one struggling with conflict, help him delve into the past and determine what may be the cause. Work with a counselor if necessary to come up with healthy ways to deal with conflict.
When one or both partners in the relationship begin to devalue what the other is feeling, casting the other person's feelings off as immature or ridiculous, invalidation is occurring. Invalidation is dangerous to a relationship since it tears apart your partner's self-esteem to the point that it can seem nonexistent. If you are the one who is being hurt by invalidation, tell your partner that you are hurting from the things she tells you. If you are the one doing the invalidation, step back for a moment and focus on the positive things your spouse does. Evaluate separately, then come together with common solutions.
Negative interpretations occur when a person believes that his partner's behavior or motives are worse than they actually are. This is the result of years of distrust and suspicion. A mature approach to problems can counter negative interpretations. Though you or your partner may be angry, the only way to solve the problem is to maintain an open mindset and approach the situation ready to forgive and forget.
Escalation is the last and worst sign of misunderstanding that a relationship can face. During the period of escalation, one or both partners use verbal or even physical force as a means of getting back at their partner. When the relationship reaches this level, the damage can seem irreparable -- but there is a way to fix it. Practice breathing and other relaxation techniques to quickly reduce stress so that when you're in the moment, you can call on those techniques for help. Seek to understand the underlying cause of your stress so that you don't take it out on your partner and say things you might regret later.
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