Relationship Battlefield

Has a gnawing emotional distance crept into your relationship?  Are you locked into spiraling arguments, nagging disagreements, or frequent bickering? Regardless of how smitten you were on your first date, both of you may now feel like you’re on opposite sides of a relationship battlefield.  While each one loves the other, perhaps neither knows how to get what he or she needs.

Getting Stuck on the Relationship Battlefield

How do couples get stuck in this unpleasant position? Often a marriage or any committed union feels like a relationship battlefield when an oppositional dynamic unfolds between partners. It’s like each assumes a defensive position and plans their own emotional strikes. For instance, one party flings a verbal missile and the other responds in kind. So much daily opposition drains their physical and emotional energy.

Most everyone agrees that love shouldn’t feel like this. Yet many of us don’t understand the real battlefield that lies beneath each committed relationship…

You and the Real Relationship Battlefield

What may feel true in your marriage or committed relationship may not be true.  You are not actual enemies on opposite sides of a battlefield.  Rather, you are two partners on the same side of a relationship battlefield, blindly facing potential threats to your relationship.

Understand the Challenges You Face

Before either of you said, “I Do”, an array of challenges lined up to test the strength of your union.  Common situations, differences, and activities exposed your relationship to potential division:

  • Different communication styles would threaten trust and connection.
  • Intrusive friends and family would create a subtle wedge between you.
  • Demanding jobs would inject uncomfortable distance into your togetherness.
  • Disparate hobbies would pull you in opposite directions.
  • Phones, tablets, and gaming devices would tempt you away from each other.

All couples face challenges.  Anyone in a committed relationship needs to understand that common challenges like these have the potential to pull you away from each other. Every. Single. Day. The problem is that few couples are prepared to consistently meet these challenges in healthy ways.

A Plan to Navigate the Relationship Battlefield

Reframe your Mission.

If you want to go from stuck to unstuck, forget trying to mold your partner into your own image. Your reframed mission is to stand side by side against all challenges your unique relationship battlefield presents. You must now act as partners, not enemies, to plan responses to the differences and challenging situations you face. Let’s briefly look at three practices that can help you navigate a relationship battlefield with greater success.

Employ Empathy.

Empathy has been described as “the secret sauce of relationships”.  Let’s describe empathy as one partner’s willingness to understand and validate the other partner’s point of view – without judgment. The beauty of this powerful force is that we don’t have to approve of or agree with what we understand. Listening to understand replaces listening to interject our own opinions.

When partners practice understanding and not judging but validating the opinions, feelings, and thoughts of the other, disagreements and differences become less threatening.  And partners begin to experience a closer connection.

Apply Relationship Boundaries

Boundaries create safe perimeters around relationships, and they enhance feelings of safety and security. Far from controlling others, boundaries describe what we will tolerate in our relationship.

Strict boundaries are important when we have intrusive relatives or friends. Although we cannot not control intrusive people, we can control (i.e., limit) our interaction with them. Hobbies, technology, and jobs also need healthy boundaries because relationships need time and energy for nurture. Committed partners will not thrive on scraps of attention and care.

Prioritize Togetherness

With healthier boundaries and improved empathy, it’s time to prioritize your relationship. Focus on togetherness, even if you only have 10 minutes a day free during the work week. For instance, spend that time together, without arguing, and briefly share what works in your relationship.  Think of it as a 10-minute Daily Truce, where you stand together in peace on the same side of the relationship battlefield.

In conclusion, your relationship faces a unique set of challenges. I’m describing that dynamic as a relationship battlefield. You choose to stay stuck or to get unstuck. Building empathy, establishing healthier boundaries, and prioritizing your relationship requires effort. You both work hard for your family. Will you each work to transform the relationship that supports your family?

Reach out to learn more about couples counseling. I would be honored to help you move forward in any relationship.