“Pick Your Battles” is a phrase I often hear women say to friends, newlyweds or their younger proteges. I also hear “wait for the right moment” to talk about an issue. These beliefs have often confused me, because when I “pick my battles” that means I brush unexpressed feelings under the rug and when I wait for the “right moment,” the moment passes and I blow up later. When I do not express myself openly and honestly, I generate distance in my relationship and create an environment of secrecy.
These are two phrases that keep relationships from growing and reaching a true place of intimacy. I suggest replacing “pick your battles” with “know what you are fighting for” and replacing “wait for the right moment” with “take 100% responsibility for my feelings and behaviors.” Dr. John Gottman, the healthy relationship guru, claims that conflict in relationships is healthy and important. Couples need conflict if it does not exist in your relationship start challenging yourself and your partner. In conflict are the moments when you get to know someone and see how the two of you move towards resolution and ultimately grow. It is when people withhold what they feel, act defensive, and blame others is when a relationship goes sour. This is true in all relationships of intimacy – familyships and friendships.
Know What you Are Fighting For
My partner and I often start to argue over something small like being late to a date or checking out on our phones. One snide comment and it turns into a full blown argument. I start pointing fingers and fingers are pointed back at me. Historically, my arguments would go nowhere, and a resolution was nonexistent, and the same topics resurfaced. I would withhold my thoughts and want to blame Chris for how I was feeling. I did not take responsibility for what was going on inside me….I did not know what I was fighting for.
We created ground rules around conflict – when we argue and want to blame the other for how we feel (mad, sad, hurt, disgusted, or afraid), we ask ourselves “What am I fighting for?” More often than not, it is to know the other is truly listening, that we are loved, we are respected, and that full trust exists between us. When Chris says things like “I want to know you have what it takes to be the Mother of my children and not check out on your smartphone.” I respect his honesty and have a clearer picture of where his feelings are born. We still have some work to do in this area, but it has supported our level of intimacy tremendously. Research claims couples that can share their core emotions and feelings with their partner have the greatest longevity.
Take 100% Responsibility for my Feelings and Behaviors
There is never the right moment to talk about an issue. Waiting for the right time to express how you feel will lead to invalidation, built-up resentment, and rationalization of a problem or feeling. Looking at my parent’s relationship before their separation, they waited for four years to talk about the distance between them. When they finally started discussing the topic, it was it was too late. When you wait to share how you feel it opens the space to start questioning your feelings, create stories that may not be true, and or build up hurt or anger.
Historically, I would try to find the right moment to talk and now I work to express how I feel at that moment. There are many times I do not really know what is bubbling inside me or a resolution I am looking for but I just blurt out what I am feeling….”I am scared, I feel hurt, or I dislike…….” This leads to good discussion and creates accountability between us. When I am honest, Chris is honest – I guide the direction that I want the relationship to go.
Fully expressing with your partner takes practice but renders deep intimacy. Set some ground rules to work toward resolution and intimacy. My clients work hard to deepen the intimacy of their relationships – they do not blame their partner but work toward their satisfaction by taking responsibility. Tell me what works in your relationship and roadblocks you are facing. You can schedule a short conversation with me here – https://mollystrategy.youcanbook.me/