How To Finally Address Unresolved Issues In Your Relationship For A Deeper, More Peaceful Connection

Photo: Getty
How To Improve Your Effective Communication Skills, Decrease Conflict, & Get Over Arguments In Your Marriage
Love

In any marriage, communication is a key element. When communication breaks down, it leads to arguments, disagreements, and sometimes, long-lasting conflict.

Learning (and practicing) effective communication skills is a sure way to resolve conflict and keep your relationship in the green. One of the best ways to improve your effective communication skills is by figuring out how to approach and discuss issues with your spouse so that you both feel heard, understood, and connected.

RELATED: 10 Little Communication Tricks That'll Lead To A Much Deeper Love

Unfinished business, unresolved issues, emotional baggage, irreconcilable differences, misunderstandings — call it what you will, but whatever you call it, they’re not good for relationships. They're called 'incompletions.'

That seems like a fitting term since their presence leaves you feeling like there’s something missing, something unfinished or incomplete in your relationship.

What's missing is the feeling that things are OK between you and your spouse and that your connection is complete.

It's a feeling that nothing that needs to be done or said in order for each of you to feel secure and at peace in your relationship at this time.

When you feel incomplete, there's a gnawing sense that something is not OK and you don’t feel a sense of ease, trust, and connection with each other.

Some couples experience a pervasive sense of incompletion because they have failed to adequately address and come to terms with the broken places between them and they believe this feeling is the "norm" and they no longer even expect to experience anything else.

This perception is not only unfortunate and painful, but it's also dangerous since it can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy that may solidify that belief into a permanent reality.

Incompletions occur whenever an issue isn’t sufficiently addressed in a way that both partners feel that it is, at least for the time being, settled.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that it is resolved and reconciled once and for all, but rather there is a sense of acceptance of things as they are and there are no unspoken feelings such as resentment or disappointment being withheld.

When an incompletion doesn’t get addressed in an open and timely way, it impairs your ability to experience deep connection, intimacy, and empathy in your relationship.

Like an undisposed bucket of garbage in the kitchen, the longer it sits there, the more foul-smelling it becomes. Many times, in your efforts to avoid the risk of opening up a potential can of worms, you choose instead to build up a tolerance to the smell of decay rather than take out the trash. Developing this tolerance has the effect of diminishing the motivation to clean things up. And the vicious circle remains unbroken.

RELATED: 8 Ways The Happiest Couples Communicate With Each Other

Getting complete requires the willingness to risk upsetting the applecart, something that you're more inclined to risk if you trust that you can repair any harm or damage that is caused or exposed in the process. If you are inexperienced in the skillful management of differences, you’re not likely to have much confidence that the process is likely to lead to a successful outcome.

That’s all the more reason to learn more about handling incompletions. Although there may be some uncomfortable moments in the process of acknowledging that which is unfinished, you are much more likely to become more skilled in this work by addressing issues directly when they arise, than by avoidance.

Here are some steps you can take to address "incompletions" with your partner and increase your communication skills in your marriage:

1. Acknowledge to your partner that you have an incompletion.

This can take the form of a simple statement such as “There’s something that I feel unfinished about and I’d like to speak with you about it. Is this a good time?”

If they say "no," seek to create an agreement to find a time that will be convenient for both of you.

(Note: be specific and make sure you both have an adequate amount of time available to do the matter justice. Assume that the conversation will take longer than you think it should.)

2. State your intention in having the conversation.

It should be something that will ultimately benefit you both, such as, “My hope in having us both address this concern is that I can feel more complete and that you can both experience greater trust and understanding with each other.”

3. Provide your partner with some guidance.

Help him to know how he can best support you in this process.

For example: “It would be helpful to me if you can just let me explain to you what I’m feeling and needing without interrupting me. I don’t feel that I’ve been successful at making my feelings and concerns clear and I’d like to try again. When I’m done, I’d like to hear your response and I’ll do my best to understand your take on things. I really appreciate your willingness to have this conversation with me now.”

RELATED: 3 'Love Language' Communication Skills That Will Make Your Relationship Last

4. Express your feelings, needs, and concerns.

Make any requests that you would like your partner to respond to.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Join now for YourTango's trending articles, top expert advice and personal horoscopes delivered straight to your inbox each morning.

Try to speak in terms of your experience, as this will diminish the likelihood that your partner will feel blamed or judged and will be less likely to become defensive. If he does become defensive or interrupts you, ask him if he can let you finish and that you’ll be able to be much more open to what he's saying after you feel that he’s heard you.

5. Listen wholeheartedly.

Show him the same respect you’ve asked him to give you by listening attentively, not just to his words, but to the feelings that underlie them as well and resist the temptation to “correct” him if he says anything that you disagree with.

Keep in mind that not disagreeing with someone does not necessarily mean that you agree with him.

6. Repeat the steps until you come to an understanding.

Go back and forth until you reach a point at which it feels that the energy between the two of you has lightened up and you both feel more relaxed, understood, and hopeful.

An incompletion doesn’t have to be absolutely resolved in order to create a positive outcome. Some incompletions require many conversations before they become reconciled to the satisfaction of both partners.

If you hit an impasse that despite your best efforts becomes intractable, rather than trying to push through it, take a break in the conversation or agree to resume the dialogue at another time, after you both have reset your intentions.

Regardless of the outcome, thank your partner for joining you in your commitment to deepening the quality of trust and understanding in the relationship.

This is admittedly an abbreviated version of the process of getting complete. You’ll learn a lot more in making the effort by noticing the consequences of your interactive patterns.

To the best of your ability try to be respectful, non-judgmental, non-blaming, and responsible in your words. Many people are sensitive to blame, judgment, and criticism. The less defensive and reactive you can be, the more open your partner is likely to be.

Becoming more skilled in the process of getting complete is a great way to break the habit of avoidance and one of the best things that you can do for your relationship. There is a learning curve to the process, but it doesn’t take a genius to master it. You might as well go for it. You’ve got nothing to lose but your incompletions!

RELATED: How To Make Even The Most Difficult Conversations With The Person You Love Easier For Both Of You

Linda Bloom, LCSW, and Charlie Bloom, MSW, are psychotherapists and relationship counselors who have worked with individuals, couples, groups, and organizations since 1975. To learn more, visit their website, Bloom Work.

This article was originally published at PsychCentral. Reprinted with permission from the author.