After listening to uncounted relationship problems, I have concluded that two simple words might be helpful to remember—in addition, of course to using the principles of Real Love that have been described in a many blogs, books, and more.
Let’s take the example of Louis and Sylvia. Louis behaves in a way that is inconsiderate toward Sylvia, or at least could be considered so by her. She decides that she doesn’t want to create a conflict over this one thing, so she says nothing. Before long it is forgotten. Or is it?
Every day we are bothered by things that happen or words that are spoken, and in an attempt to avoid contention, we say nothing. We smooth things over, but it’s like putting a bandage on a cancer. We may not be aware of its presence, but it festers and grows.
Louis continues to behave in other ways that bother Sylvia, and again she holds her tongue, but again the offense plants seeds that produce weeds that grow silently but abundantly. Finally, Sylvia has had enough, so she tells Louis that she’s sick of his behaving badly. Louis is unaware—as is Sylvia—that she is expressing her reaction to the sum of a great many offenses, so her reaction seems exaggerated and unwarranted. Louis naturally defends himself, and Sylvia feels unheard, adding yet another wound to a life that can tolerate no more.
Even after people learn the principles of Real Love, they tend to repeat this unproductive pattern, because it is so thoroughly familiar to them. They cannot see over the top of the rut that has been dug into life’s path by countless repetitions.
So what can be done? Among many other changes in perspective, feelings, and behaviors, I recommend that we act sooner and speak more clearly. Sooner and clearer. Let me illustrate.
Each time Sylvia was offended or hurt, she chose to keep her feelings to herself, which certainly seemed easier in the moment, but guaranteed a buildup to a grand explosion. Hence, even though speaking up is possibly more difficult now, we must speak much sooner, so that wounds don’t pile on top of each other.
When Sylvia did finally speak to Louis, she simply spat dissatisfied venom at him, rather than clearly describing what was really bothering her. Her lack of clarity made it impossible for Louis to understand what she really wanted or to help her get it.
Sooner and Clearer Together
So what would it look like if Sylvia were to act sooner and clearer? Although I will idealize this particular scenario—for the sake of brevity and instruction—I assure you that this plays out very well, as proven by thousands of couples.
Sylvia offers her opinion on a financial subject. Louis rolls his eyes.
Immediately, Sylvia says, “You just rolled your eyes. What did you mean by that?”
“I had not noticed,” Louis admit, “but you’re right. I was being condescending and snotty.”
“That’s exactly how it felt to me, and I must say I didn’t like it much. I don’t feel close to you when you treat me like that.”
Louis walks to where Sylvia is standing, puts his hands on her waist, and turns her so she faces him directly. Standing very close and looking into her eyes, he says, “Of course you don’t like it. It’s not loving, and I’ve behaved like this many times before. I don’t like how I feel when I do it, either. I was wrong.”
“When I express an opinion,” Sylvia says, “I need you to look right at me—as you’re doing now, which I like very much, by the way—and let me know that you heard what I said. You don’t have to agree with me, but I really do need to know that you heard me and that you value my opinion.”
The argument is over. Sylvia and Louis immediately feel closer. They understand each other better. Old wounds begin to heal. A tender and fulfilling relationship is nourished a little more. And this happened because Sylvia spoke her thoughts and feelings soon and clearly.
Sooner and clearer. You might make mistakes in the beginning. Your attempts may not be polished, but that doesn’t matter. Keep practicing, and you will enjoy the results.
Find genuine happiness now and forever.
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