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RANDALL-YOUNG: Relationships: the importance of positive talk
When there are struggles in a relationship, a lot of time is often spend talking about what is wrong, or what we are upset about. There may be blame, criticism and judgment, which usually results in arguments, and if the negative talk continues things may spiral out of control.
Firing criticism back and forth does no more to change things than when countries bomb each other saying they are “fighting for peace.” In fact, a lot of damage is done, which may be remembered for years down the road, continuing to affect the relationship between the two.
It is much better for couples if they can focus on what they want to create, rather than what is wrong. Of course reference may have to be made to what is upsetting, but the focus should then quickly switch to what it is that could make things better.
When there are ongoing issues and conflict between a couple they often stop listening to one another, and no longer feel like being kind or loving. It is like a plant that is struggling to survive, and then water, light and nutrition are withdrawn. It does not stand a chance.
All couples have issues at some time or another, so it is important to have some agreements about how difficulties will be discussed. A good beginning is to affirm caring for the other, and positive intent in dealing with the problem.
Couples should agree to avoid blame, criticism, judgment and put-downs. It is important to try to focus on the issue at hand, without bringing in too much of the past. Do not compare your partner to others. Telling her she is just like her mother levels two criticisms with one blow. Asking why he cannot be like your friend’s husband is devastating: he will always think you are comparing him to “Mr. Perfect,” and that he will never measure up.
Relationship issues can be delicate, and past hurts can get in the way of present solutions, so be careful what you say.
Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychotherapist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit www.gwen.ca.