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The Art of Relating

By Christine Kniffen, MSW, LCSW

The Dangers of Ignoring The Bickering

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Are you currently struggling with some aspect of your relationship or do you feel that there is certainly room for improvement? A relationship is like a car. It has many components and all need to work seamlessly together in order for a satisfactory ride.

Perhaps you have even tried to address certain issues previously, but to no avail. Having seen scores of couples throughout the last 15 years, I have become quite adept at observing the patterns of interacting and recognizing where the wheels tend to fly off the track, resulting in a rather bumpy ride. Generally, couples diverge off into several predictable paths that need to be righted in order to feel satisfied for the long-haul of their trip.

Learning how to navigate the differences is one of the biggest hang-ups couples have. And, if not done successfully for too long of a period, this can lead to arguments, hurt feelings, anger and eventually the possible demise of the relationship. Differences between the partners often fall into unhealthy patterns of being viewed as right or wrong.

This is where the real damage begins to take hold and start chipping away at the foundation of the couple. Eventually, we begin to feel hurt that our partner can’t see our side or how important something is to us and why. We then begin to dig our heels in even harder and thus begins the slow death of compromise and understanding towards our partners. This then festers and becomes pervasive throughout the relationship. I remember one client who came in by herself several years ago. This pattern of seeing things as right and wrong, accompanied by the then predictable lack of compromise, had reached a breaking point. She said, “I can’t even stand to hear him talk anymore”. As a counselor, we all hope that couples take the initiative to address the struggle of navigating the differences before things reach this point, as it makes for a much better chance to steer the relationship back on the right track.

Learning how to validate the other person’s feelings, if not accomplished, is equally damaging to being able to steer the relationship back on track if unattended for too long. I think that people generally have a good understanding of the concept of validation. However, I think many of us need a little help in how to do it so it is both received and registered by our partners. Thus, resulting in them being more amenable to giving this validation back to us. Validating is simply acknowledging the logic of someone’s feelings. It’s not about whether-or-not you would have the same reaction to a particular event that took place or something that was said. It is crucial that we understand why someone has the reaction they have to something, rather than thinking they are simply wrong or crazy for feeling that way. Otherwise, our partners will never feel like you understand them or their intentions, therefore not ever feeling fully loved by you. If we let them explain what they said to themselves regarding the situation, and then see the logic in how they reacted to their formulation of the event, they will begin to feel truly understood and validated. However, if we just continue the cycle of reacting to their reaction, we will not be able to find our way back to the right road and make the long journey together.

Differences and validation are two main areas that couples often need help navigating. Couples Coaching can help the two of you get back on the right track to be able to traverse the incredible journey that is love. It is a journey in that forward motion is required to continue, you can’t stay stuck forever. If you find yourself struggling in your relationship and can relate to what has been said above, then take the steps necessary to get your relationship back on track.

Christine Kniffen, LCSW is a Relationship Coach and Therapist. Call for a free consultation today at 314-374-8396.

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