Frisk out the Risk

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Relationships, in general, can have some ups and downs. Research has shown that there are four indicators that can show if the relationship is at risk of ending. You can create a more loving and healthier relationship one word at a time.  Good communication and problem-solving skills and techniques are key to making your relationship work well and be more fulfilling overall.

How often do these wine signs happen in your relationship?

Withdrawal and avoidance

This is when one partner shows an unwillingness to get into or stay with important discussions. Withdrawal can be as obvious as getting up and leaving the room or as subtle as “turning off” or “shutting down” during an argument. Avoidance reflects the same reluctance to participate in certain discussions, with more emphasis on preventing the conversation from happening in the first place.

Invalidation

Invalidation is a pattern in which one partner subtly or directly puts down the thoughts, feelings or character of the other. Sometimes such comments, intentionally or unintentionally, lower the self-esteem of the targeted person. Invalidation can take many forms. One partner says to the other that their feelings (for example sadness and frustration) are inappropriate. Invalidation hurts. It leads naturally to cover up who you are and what you think because it becomes just too risky to do otherwise. People naturally cover up their innermost feelings when they believe that they will be put down.

Negative interpretations

Negative interpretations occur when one partner consistently believes that the motives of the other are more negative than is really the case. The actions of one partner are interpreted negatively and unfairly. Research tells us that people tend to see what they expect to see in others and in situations. In fact, we have a very strong tendency toward “confirmation bias” which consists of looking for evidence that confirms what we already think is true about a person or situation. In distressed relationships, the partners tend to discount the positive things they see, attributing to causes such as chance rather than to any positive characteristics of the partner.

Escalation

Escalation occurs when partners negatively respond back and forth to each other, continually upping the ante so conditions get worse and worse. Partners tend to say things that threaten the very lifeblood of their relationship. Partners often try to hurt each other by hurling verbal (and sometimes physical) weapons. When escalation includes the use of intimate knowledge as a weapon, the threat to the future likelihood of tender moments is great. Who’s going to share deep feelings if the information may be used later when conflict is out of control in the relationship?

The bad news is that the presence of these behaviors in a relationship can indicate that the relationship can get rocky if they are not acknowledged and corrected. The Good News is that relationships can be saved and enriched by communication, problem solving skills, and enrichment training.

Many hidden issues arise from deeply held expectations.

Expectations build up over a lifetime of experiences. These expectations are based in the past but operate in the present.

There are three primary sources for our expectations:

  • Our family of origin
  • Our previous relationships
  • The culture we live in

Expectations are transmitted both directly by what we hear and indirectly by what we observe. A hidden issue can’t get triggered in the first place unless an expectation is violated. Studies show that it’s more likely that relationships will develop problems when expectations are unreasonable. Conflicts caused by unexpressed expectations are very common and unmet expectations can lead to great disappointment and frustration in your relationship. One great clue to expectations is a disappointment. It’s a good habit to stop a minute when you’re disappointed and ask yourself what you expected. Doing this can help you to become aware of the expectations that may be unconsciously affecting your relationship.

Expectations and Hidden Issues

How do you handle hidden issues?

First, you can recognize when one may be operating and start talking about it constructively.

If you’re in an argument and suspect hidden agendas, call a Stop Action.

Reschedule a time to discuss the hidden issue.

Go for problem discussion, not a problem solution.

The deeper the issue, the less likely it is that problem solving will be the answer.

What you need first and foremost is to hear and understand each other’s feelings and concerns. Such validating discussions have the greatest impact on hidden issues. This alone can help to resolve a hidden agenda. Listen for understanding.  Try to see things from your partner’s point of view.  Look through their eyes with their experiences.

Such talks have so much power because the most common root issue is the desire to know you’re really accepted by one another. What better way to know that you’re accepted than to feel that you’re really being heard? Couples say that when they finally do talk about hidden issues, there’s a tremendous sense of relief, as if a weight has been lifted.

Since dealing with these issues takes skill and effort, it’s best if you’re working as a team to discover, explore and handle them. Ask your self and your partner the following: “What can we do together to work through these issues?”

You can prevent a great deal of damage by learning to give events and issues the time and skill they require. If hidden issues don’t come out they fester and produce levels of sadness and resentment that eventually destroy the relationship. When you learn to discuss deeper issues openly and with emphasis on validating each other, the issues that generated the greatest conflict can actually draw you closer together.

Expectations and hidden issues

How do you know if there are hidden issues in your relationship?

Look for the SWAT signs.

Scorekeeping – when one or both of you are keeping track of who does what.

Wheel Spinning – when you talk about the same problem over and over again.  When an argument starts with you thinking, “Here we go again.

Avoidance – when one or both of you are avoiding certain topics or levels of intimacy.

Trivial Triggers – trivial issues are blown up out of all proportion.

A small event triggers horrendous arguments.

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