We’ve all done it. You argue with your partner (or maybe it was a friend, a sibling, or your parent) and you part on bad terms. Maybe she stormed out of the room cursing, stomping her feet, crying. Maybe he went silent and just glared – it was clear the conversation was OVER! Then an hour, a few hours, or maybe even a few days goes by and you’ve forgotten why you argued in the first place. Or maybe you do remember, but the thought of bringing it up again sounds AWFUL. Why would you bring it up if it’s just going to lead to an argument and everyone feeling badly again? Easier to leave it alone….. fall back into the routine of life…. and in a few days we will all forget. Right?
The answer to some extent is probably “yes.” Unless it was a serious conflict, you will probably forget. You will be able to let it go and even reconnect with your partner. But if you do not make the effort to work it out, to talk about what actually happened and to address hurtful things that were said and done, there is some part of you that doesn’t forget. You probably don’t think about them, but those hurts still stick around. There is a small little subconscious wound inside of you that says:
“How could he/she DO that to me???”
This would not be a problem if these types of interactions only happened once and were never to be seen or heard from again. But this is typically not the case. When couples don’t work through a hurtful conflict it makes them not only more likely to have another conflict, but also less likely that they will be able to work through them when they happen. Soon, a pattern of hurt, avoidance of conflict (as a way to avoid more hurt), and increased numbers of wounds develops. Over time, a trusted and loved partner begins to look like an enemy rather than a source of support and caring.
In marriage therapy, I see many couples who have fallen into this type of pattern. It is painful to see two people who want to feel cared about push each other away because they avoid talking about difficult issues. However, I have also seen this pattern change many times – when couples recognize more clearly what is happening and develop healthy communication skills, they see that they are actually not enemies and dramatic shifts take place in their relationships.
Have you experienced these types of interactions in your relationship? Are you worried that your conflict, avoidance, or communication style will reach, or has already reached, a place that is destructive to your ability to connect with your partner? Don’t let it go any further, as these types of issues can be worked on in a healthy and manageable way. Please schedule an appointment with one of our therapists today or contact us with any other questions or concerns. We look forward to hearing from you!