GUEST COLUMN: Relationships are about compromise, not sacrifice, by Jason Hanson, counsellor

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The mechanics of a relationship have always interested me greatly.

It was this interest which led to me specialising in relationship therapy when I first qualified as a therapist.

During our lifetime we will forge numerous different relationships with a variety of people. There’s the relationship we have with our parents, with our siblings, with our peers at work, with our line managers, with our teachers at school,with our spouses at home.

There are common themes which exist in all of the aforementioned, but the key one is communication. Now when we talk about communication we do not mean simply talking and listening. There also needs to be clarity and understanding. We need to be able to relate to people, whilst ensuring our message is communicated effectively and sensitively. Let’s explore spousal relationships in more depth.

As a therapist one of the most common themes I encounter within couples is a breakdown of communication.

Sometimes this is seen as an avoidance tactic in that one or both of the individuals are reticent to express their emotions due to trepidation of what the reaction may be.

Whilst this may avoid potential conflict in the short term, the danger with repressing feelings over a long period of time is that they may surface at a later juncture with a much greater magnitude.

This could turn what may have been a heated argument into something potentially catastrophic which may have more serious repercussions.

Disagreements are natural and depending on their frequency can be quite healthy for a relationship.

They allow people to express their feelings and emotions, but there needs to be a compromise reached. There needs to be a purpose to the disagreement and this needs to be fulfilled.

If it transpires one person is constantly relenting, leaving them feeling despondent then the relationship becomes about sacrifice and not compromise.

Relationships are about setting expectations, ensuring both people are aligned with these and having their expectations met. We sometimes have a tendency to assume we know what the other wants, but we have to be careful as this can often be based on what we would like in their position and isn’t necessarily an accurate reflection.

Don’t ever be afraid to have a conversation to ascertain how you can best communicate.

It is beneficial for you both to understand how the other would best receive information around potentially tricky topics. By having that agreement, you ensure you are aligned and can both meet expectations. It can alleviate some of the anxiety around approaching sensitive topics because you know you are doing it in a manner your partner has requested.

No relationship is easy. They require constant work and effective communication, so never stop talking and remember it’s about two people compromising, not one person sacrificing.