Not long ago, I was counseling a couple when one partner, Tracie, wowed me with this:
“There will be days in which I will get mad at you and you will get mad at me but we will resolve it. I don’t want to live a life of avoidance.”
Tracie is on to something. Avoidance is no way to inhabit a relationship . . . it isn’t living. It’s compromise; it’s existing in a space of bitterness and resentment; it’s detachment. And detachment grows like an untreated fungus. Pretty soon, a canyon-sized gap defines the nature of the relationship. Not good. Problems don’t get resolved, discussion is thwarted so misunderstandings are allowed to flourish, and wounds don’t get healed—only compounded.
Problems don’t magically go away. They grow fatter if ignored. And we can’t rely on time to do the healing. It doesn’t always work that way.
Dr. John Gottman, an acclaimed marital researcher, doesn’t mince words. He maintains that such relationships are doomed, and further states that unaddressed issues and avoidance are more detrimental to relationship health than conflict. At least in the midst of conflict, he continues, passion and engagement are occurring.
All of that makes sense. Can we really feel close to someone who isn’t receptive to talking things out, who’s unwilling to listen to our point of view, who’s unwilling to work on arriving at a common understanding, who’s unwilling to get vulnerable and naked with their truth? Of course not. It takes mutual understanding—more so than agreement, actually—to spawn an intimate connection.
Thich Nhat Hanh put it perfectly:
“Love is made of understanding and understanding is made of love. “
And, let’s face it, understanding can’t happen unless we have the courage to share honestly, gently, and with an open heart.
Names are changed to honor client confidentiality
11 responses to “The Latest Wow: The Great Divide”
This is a good one. My husband and I, when we do have a crapy argument, we usually end up not speaking much for a day or two. It’s frustrating and I completely feel a major disconnect even if we resolve it eventually. I’m not one to let things go unresolved even if he likes to pretend nothing happened. I make it clear we must come to an understanding and resolve things, and he usually needs more time to cool off and think than I do. I think we need to have a good balance of cool off time and quick resolution. I’ll think of this next time.
Wonderful sharing, Alissa. Thanks!
I’ve learned that being truthful is very difficult. It makes me vulnerable but allows the deeper me real peace and freedom.
Wow Don! Nothing more need be said . . . just wow!
After years of trying to talk about things and after negative reactions I have now realized that for years I’ve just been going through the motions. Now he’s at a point of discovery of things in his life…..going to therapy…wants to work things out. He’s doing all the right things. I’m totally exhausted…having always put his needs and wants first….I’m no longer IN love…..I think I’m done!
It was a vital classroom for you. I know that one all too well. Undoubtedly, it made you stronger and wiser. You’ve graduated — congratulations! 🙂
Thank you.. . it’s a process…. Don’t think I’ve experienced the middle ground yet. Even if I felt still “IN” love with him I will NEVER trust him again. I can’t be happy in… And don’t want… That kind of relationship!
What I’m hearing is that, yes, you have loved him and maybe still do, but what’s new is that you have come to love you more. Wonderful! That’s the foundation of healthy boundaries. Proud of you!
Don, I like what you said, so true! Time doesn’t heal, we have to do the nitty gritty. Time just passes but love heals all! …and love is work, but in the end it’s worth it!
Thank you, Rachel, I couldn’t agree more.
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