How Relationship Tensions can be a Mirror for Personal Growth

You know how the saying goes, “you bicker like an old married couple.” Chances are if you’ve been in any kind of long-term relationship you can relate to this feeling.

The frustration that comes with continually asking your partner to pick up after themselves or to do their fair share of chores often adds up to many little outbursts of conflict if you let it – but it doesn’t have to be this way.

A healthy relationship should address these frustrations, but the key is to do so in a mindful and respectful manner. While you may think you’re approaching the situation in this way, it’s likely that if the issue is not resolved after many attempts to remedy it, there’s still room for growth from both parties (yes, even for you).

Taking into account your partners needs, values, and upbringing can shed some light on common relationship stressors and open up room for compromise.

Here are few ways you could approach a continually troubling point of contention with your spouse:

(I give a personal example in number 3)…

1. Before you react, consider the situation from their point of view.

How does your partner see the world? What are your partners values around chores? Were they raised in a family where their parents shared equal household responsibilities? Or were they raised in a family that was more traditional, where they weren’t expected to do chores? Maybe, their mom did their laundry and picked up after them until they moved out of the house (and even when they came home after college). Did they have rules and regulations? How strict were their parents? Considering these questions can create some empathy for your loved one, depending on the circumstances.

2. Before you react, consider the situation from your perspective.

How does your worldview differ from your partners? What were you expected to contribute as a kid? Were you raised in a traditional family? Or maybe you grew up watching your parents cook dinners together and were expected to do your laundry, even if not all the time. How might your partners upbringing differ from yours, and how might that be effecting their behavior as an adult? Behaviors and habits are hard to change, even when we’re consciously trying to do so.

3. Before you react, consider your personalities and where they may potentially create conflict.

We’ve all heard the saying “opposites attract,” so unfortunately if this is true it probably means that we also have opposite living preferences. Even if you swear you’re “the same exact person” – news flash – you’re not! You are two people with different needs. For example, my husband and I value many of the same things, but the way we move through the world is very different.

My husband is constantly bubbly, energetic, and a “wake up singing” kind of guy. While most mornings I love this, sometimes his constant need for stimulation overwhelms me as an introvert who’s easily overstimulated. For example, he likes to have the baseball game turned up loud while simultaneously watching his ROMWOD (range of motion, workout of the day) stretches on his phone, with the teacher loudly counting his breathing… and I just can’t.

Sometimes, I’ll simply remove myself from the situation, but other times I address it. When I do it’s helpful to consider that…

1) my hubby is an extrovert who gets his energy from other people and stimulus – I am not;

2) his dad watches baseball loudly too, and this is one of the main things they do together when we visit – it’s their bonding time so it’s something he holds very dear – I can empathize with this;

3) while this behavior bothers me, to my husband my request to please turn one of the devices to silent might feel like an unnecessary annoyance – I understand where our personalities differ.

It helps if I approach it in a way that makes him feel respected by not making my disapproval of the situation about him or anything he’s doing, and instead making it about me and my needs. It’s easier to do this after I’ve considered what’s mentioned above.

I might say something like…

“Babe, I really want to stay here and watch baseball with you, but I’m feeling agitated by the sound coming from multiple places. Do you think you could turn one down?”

My husband is much more likely to accept my request when I say it in this way versus reactively saying something like, “why do you always have to listen to two things at the same time!?”

Bonus: Consider that what’s bothering you about your partner during moments of tension… might it actually be your own ‘stuff,’ more than anything they’re doing or saying?

Brianna Wiest puts it best…

“The most freeing, liberating thing you can do is to realize that we are all a collective one and that each fragment of a bigger light refracts on one another in just a way that reveals what you need to see and understand, but that the light is always your own. Every relationship you have is with yourself… Relationships do not serve to give you eternal, perpetual happiness. They serve to make you more aware. The sooner you realize that said awareness is your own, the easier everything else is.”

– 101 Essays That Will Change the Way You Think

That’s all I have, friends.

Until next time,

XoXo – K

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