When we experience strong emotion within our relationship, it’s generally met with a strong urge. This urge is often to pull away or to lean in. It’s important to have a sense of what works best in your relationship and when. When it comes to navigating conflict and emotions, timing is everything.
Of course, all conflict should be communicated and addressed. However, we can’t just attend to how we communicate with our partner. We should also be mindful of how our partner navigates complex relational dynamics within the context of everyday life and with us specifically.
Does your partner need a cooling off period?
Do they shut down quickly?
When do you find your partner to be most receptive to feedback and communication?
In my own relationship, I know there are certain times where both me and my partner would prefer to not have a deep conversation about our relationship (such as right before bed, when the kids are awake, or when one of us is stressed). At times, it is still easy to miss the mark. If you find that your partner is shutting down, disinterested, or appearing somewhat resistant to talking, consider the circumstances and be aware of your timing. Sometimes, they may even blatantly say “not now” or “let’s talk about this later.” Try and respect that! I know it’s hard in the moment. However, there is a reason they are saying this. To translate, what they are actually telling you is “I can’t emotionally take this on right now.”
Work to respect and attend to other variables outside your relationship. Everyone has several hats they must juggle and even if you spend the majority of your time with your partner, they are still living a part of their own life separate from you. Keep in mind both what you may not be aware of as well as what you are aware of. Did your partner have an important business meeting? You might find it beneficial to first assess how the meeting went before diving in to relationship talk.
In the end, despite our best intentions, we will at times miss the mark. We will attempt conflict resolution, connection, or intimacy and be met with a negative response such as disinterest, resistance, or divided attention. Have compassion with both yourself and your partner. This is bound to happen! Don’t let one instance of being faced with a lack of reception influence you. Again, timing is everything.
Talk to your partner about not just HOW you communicate but also WHEN you prefer to communicate. Establish some basic ground rules such as, “we will not engage in serious relationship talk when one of us is drunk.” (This one might sound silly at first but actually comes up quite often with clients I see.) The rules should be personal to your relationship and evolve over time. Consider altering the ground rules as your relationship evolves. Although you may have been fine to have serious conversation late at night, you might come to learn that you feel drained by it if you recently took a job that results in more stress. You may have used to enjoy having deep conversation in the car but now feel trapped during these instances if not in a good place with your partner.
WHEN is incredibly important. It can make the difference between halted communication and open, effective dialogue. Try not to minimize it’s importance and I guarantee that your partner will only appreciate you more for it. You might even find the conversation goes your way a bit more as a result! I’m sure that’s something you can get behind.
When do you and your partner find you communicate best? Drop a comment below to share. I’d love to hear from you!