I’ve been writing a lot lately about fairy tale myths and other lies that lead people to have unrealistic expectations in their relationships. The last lie I want to address is the myth that a healthy relationship is free of conflict. In other words, that Happily Ever After means you never fight. In my experience, the only romantic relationships that are free of conflict are the ones that don’t communicate their true feelings.
It is perfectly normal to have disagreements with your partner. The conflicts most couples have are based on blame, shame and guilt. Because most relationships are emotionally fused, each partner’s sense of self is fragile. You walk around on eggshells, afraid to upset your partner and be the target of his verbal barrage of arrows aimed at your fragile heart. Or you might be the one on the attack, shooting down your partner’s attempts at differentiating.
In order for conflicts to improve the relationship, they have to become less defensive. You have to be willing to show your vulnerability and be courageous enough to ask for what you want. I call this speaking authentically.
Communication is critical to growing and nurturing relationships of all kinds. When we talk about our feelings, we come from either love or fear. In other words, we communicate either authentically or from a place of feeling vulnerable and afraid. Communicating authentically will always improve a relationship, even when what we communicate is not something the other wants to hear. When someone is trying to differentiate themselves within their relationship, clear and authentic communication is a powerful tool to use.
Communicating from a place of vulnerability will rarely improve a relationship. The only time communicating from vulnerability helps is when you’re communicating from a place of authentic vulnerability, and that’s a difficult skill to learn. It takes being willing to be afraid, and openly talk about what you’re afraid of to your partner, who’s usually the person who sparks the fear in the first place. Therefore, it’s important to be able to discern where you’re coming from… ideally before you open your mouth to speak.
Some signs you are communicating from vulnerability and fear include snapping back a quick response, like a knee-jerk reaction, without thinking. You may be more concerned with getting your point across than listening to what the other person is saying. You feel attacked by what the other is saying, which is also a sign that your partner is speaking from fear as well. You may also say things to hurt the other person’s feelings or make them feel guilty for having their own point of view,