We like to think of our romantic relationships as being comforting and stable. Picture your ideal relationship: is it founded upon routines, loyalty, contentment, and safety?
Most people don’t actively seek out a chaotic partnership. What we often don’t consider is how we actually get to this feeling of stability with someone else. It’s normal for couples to argue and disagree. In those moments especially, we recognize that communication is the key to moving past a rough patch.
But what healthy communication requires of us can be difficult to come to terms with: facing our own discomforts. Discomforts can manifest as emotions tied to past experiences, anxieties about the future, or fears of upsetting others.
What Avoiding Discomfort Can Look Like
Say you’ve been bickering with your partner about housework for a while. You feel you’ve been contributing more than your fair share to the daily chores lately. Your partner has been busy with their job and hasn’t been home as much.
Your partner, coming home late from an intense work meeting, criticizes the way you’ve reorganized the fridge when they can’t find what they were looking for. In the heat of the moment, you throw an insult right back at them, and this leads to a full-blown argument.
The Seeds of Conflict
When you both reacted intensely to a seemingly small trigger, you avoided getting at the root of your discomfort. Your partner didn’t share their anxieties about the big work presentation, which lead to them being on edge when they got home. You haven’t told them about the way your parents often criticized how you completed the chores they set for you growing up.
Cue feelings of shame, inadequacy, anxiety, and self-doubt on both sides. In the larger context of your relationship, it might seem like something small lead to a huge argument. In reality, you’ve been unwilling to address the roots of your emotions and get vulnerable with one another. Over time, avoiding these difficult topics will lead to emotional distance and further tension. That gap will become harder and harder to bridge.
Learn to Embrace Vulnerability
Facing discomfort head-on as a couple will strengthen your romantic bond. Conflict and discussion then become opportunities for growth rather than relationship pitfalls. When you learn to voice your feelings, you’ll become more confident over time.
Naming your emotions and giving voice to your experiences honestly takes work and practice. Together, you’ll have made the space to hear and affirm one another in the face of your discomforts.
But continuing to rely on avoidance tactics will sabotage a healthy relationship in the long run. By not being open and honest with your partner, even when it feels difficult and scary, you’re avoiding true emotional connection. It takes courage!
No one wants to feel emotional pain in the re-telling of past experiences or voicing your deepest fears and anxieties. But when you allow yourself that vulnerability in front of your partner and they do the same for you, you’re creating the space for a beautiful and healthy relationship.
Communicate Directly to Build Your Bond
Before the next argument, sit down and talk about the emotions behind your snap judgments and quick remarks to one another. Make time to hear one another’s honesty. Strategize ways of recognizing their discomfort in the moment instead of rushing to criticism and defensiveness.
Running away from your discomfort keeps you dishonest with yourself and in a state of dulled emotions. Facing it, together, will allow you more room to feel joy, pleasure, and satisfaction. Think of it as an opportunity (and catalyst!) for growth and a renewed sense of love with one another.