When people arrive at my office, as you can imagine, they are in trouble. And what is often true is that one of the two wants to have the big “sit down” conversation, roll up those sleaves, and solve the problem. The complication is that almost always, the other is not willing or ready to do that.
So, when the “sit-downer” pushes, the “let’s not” ends up retreating further, which only leads to the “sit-downer” seeing even more need, more reason to have the sit-down. The effect is a vicious cycle where the problems get worse, the solution gets harder to come-by, and neither gets what he or she wants.
Sound like a familiar problem?
Here’s the solution: Give up on solving the problem right now. Understand, I am not suggesting turning a “blind eye” to the problem. But let’s face it: if you are not getting what you want from the technique you are using, it may be a good time to change the approach.
The real problem is that there is not enough connection between the two, so any conversation seems to be a threat to one or the other. And, in fact, what seems like a daunting, if not impossible problem, becomes irrelevant when things are going well.
My wife has pointed out that she doesn’t care where we are going on a trip when we are all getting along. But if there is a feeling of disconnect, then somewhere that is not her favorite feels like a bad choice. When things are going well, problems shrink in importance. When there is a disconnect, then problems magnify in their importance. A minor issue becomes a major stumbling block.
An aside: I have had many people tell me they live by the idea that you should never go to bed angry. My response is that means you will be tired many mornings. What seems like something to be angry about often feels much less important after a good night’s rest.
The reason I state this aside is because there is a tie-in. When our mood is low, we tend to see things from a more pessimistic and negative way. When our mood is high, we tend to be more hopeful and optimistic.
So, when we are feeling low about our relationship, we tend to be less optimistic about issues and problems, and find ourselves propelled into solving them, getting down to the bottom of things. Or we tend to want to avoid the problem all-together. Neither approach is useful.
My recommendation: set aside the problem for a time. Instead, focus on finding some times and places to have enjoyable, neutral discussions. Find some opportunities of enjoying each other’s company. In other words, build and nurture your emotional connection. Spend time in reconnecting, making some deposits in the emotional bank account. When that connection is more solid, then you can decide whether an issue still needs to be solved. If, when you both feel connected, it seems like an important issue, then you can tackle it.