Part 1: You Drive Me Crazy, But What if Crazy was Your Favorite Part?

Relationships are hard. In fact, relationships are the most stressful factors of our lives. If we think about the most stressful life events such as death, divorce, imprisonment, or getting fired, it is the relationship factor that makes these events bearable to unbearable. Pain doctors at the Pain Institute of Medicine claim they are able predict future illness based on stressful life events (see Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale and take your own inventory). In my experience, the thing that I dread the most is the confrontation that relationships require. This is the stress in my relationships that drives me crazy. Am I alone in this? But what if confronting the elephant in the room conversations in your relationship actually became your favorite part?

To respect my relationship, I gained her permission to share that I recently broke up with her, my girlfriend and reconciled things between us. This was stressful. Stressful for both of us even though it was my fault and decision. I would like to share two things I learned from this experience.

The first thing I learned has two parts (see part 2 article for more). First, I learned that my fear to confront her with my concerns and perceived faults seemed scarier than actually talking them out. But my girlfriend was not willing to give up without a fight. The openness my girlfriend had with me even while I was breaking her heart endeared me to her at the same time my eyes were opened to what I was losing. Her willingness to understand and hear my concerns surprised me and motivated me to stay and fight for her.

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Figure 1: The Sound Of Music. Point of Transition to real connection.

We have a choice like in Shakespeare’s Hamlet to, “die or not to die,” in relationship too, that is the question. We cannot avoid relationships without hitting head and confronting differences and personal insecurities. We die in our relationships if these differences separate us and kill our positive emotions we once shared. But we do not have to die. We can choose to confront relationship breakdown and pay the price of short-term discomfort or finalize our relationships with estrangement. Fraulein Maria in ‘The Sound of Music’ cared enough about the children to confront Captain von Trapp as in figure 1. And later, this confrontation was the beginning shift for the family. Father von Trapp and his children were able to connect as displayed in Figure 2 even if it began with music.  So, why do we need to confront when it is more convenient to let things slide, or why not just break up and end our relationship? Because it is in the struggle that reveals the strength of character, and this is where the beauty of relationships blossom – not in the easy but in the hard.

So let me recap how confronting helped me. When I confronted my girlfriend with my concerns, this is when I really saw the quality of her heart.

So next time you feel the habitual fight coming on, consider doing and seeing things differently – with openness and hope. Focus on confronting, not digesting it or moving on.  Don’t allow, “Choose your battles” to keep you from an engagement with the possibility of stronger connection. Yes, we all have to overlook things at times and give the benefit of the doubt.

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Great relationships are not devoid of problems. Just as no relationship with respect is devoid of differences. And difficult emotions in relationships require objectivity, usually with the help of others, like from friends, family, or therapist. The difference is that good and great relationships can effectively make repairs. The quality of our relationships is proportional to the ability that a relationship can reconcile. Just like make-up sex is a real thing, make-up reconciliation is the quality of our relationships. If your ability to make-up is great than I can bet you also have a great relationships. And for those that would like therapeutic one-on-one assistance, please reach out and schedule an appointment today. In part 2 I will discuss how we can confront more effectively and with less chance of offending or triggering your partner’s fear response.

I would be happy to offer expert therapeutic one-on-one assistance. Please reach out and schedule an appointment with me today at (801) 810-8309. ryan@holladayfamilies.com

Written by Ryan Smith, MS, LAMFT, Therapist at Holladay Center for Couples and Families

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