Change is the most constant thing in life. It’s an unavoidable force and it plays a key role in the trajectory of our relationships. Some changes can really shake things up, causing rough patches. During such times it is how we choose to communicate with our partners that will impact our relationships. Over time, I have seen that there are healthy and unhealthy ways of communicating and the changes we face can put that to the test. At some point, our partners will most certainly bring up something they would like to change in the relationship. It can either can be about you, or them, or it may be an “us” thing.
When it’s about you, it’s not the easiest thing to digest. Let me be honest, it’s fucking unsettling to be the cause of the problem. In the past, I would put up my defences and arm myself with rebuttals. It’s a normal response when we feel attacked. However, I came to understand that there’s a difference between feeling and being and I was responding based on how I felt.
Instead of realising that my partner was was coming to me out of genuine concern for our relationship, I saw an angry person who was determined to blame me for their unhappiness. It didn’t dawn on me that my partner’s desire for change could positively affect both of us. Over time I learned that the best thing that I could do is to listen to my partner’s request for change, without interjecting or becoming defensive. I also learned to respond honestly and to treat my partner with respect, empathy, compassion and care while doing so.
Sometimes our partners come to us with changes about them. This is almost always the preferred situation because now, if these changes cause tension, the blame isn’t on us, right? Now we can easily point our finger at our partners and feel guilt free about it. However, the crazy thing is, respect, empathy, compassion and care have a big role to play in this scenario too.
In the past, when I found myself in this situation, I would take the stance that I was in the right, because I wasn’t the problem. I had absolutely no desire to really listen to my partner or to seek understanding. Instead, I was too busy compiling their change as evidence for my case to simply end the relationship. Ultimately, I had to learn that if I truly loved this person and still desired to be with them, I had to be more open in how I received them and how I communicated my feelings as well. Those four words were the catalyst… again.
Lastly, is when the need for change is about both partners in the relationship. You would think that with both parties acknowledging change it would be easier however, this can be even more difficult to navigate. Even though our egos naturally want to place the blame onto the other person, both parties now share the blame for any discord.
It can be hard to come to terms with this but if we are really invested in the relationship the only way to go about this is by mutually accepting responsibility for the changes and how they have affected the relationship.
Only then can the relationship begin to move forward again. As with the previous scenarios respect, empathy, compassion and care play a huge role in this.
Change doesn’t have to be some ominous thing that we fear. We don’t have to engage in unhealthy communication during our change conversations with our partners. My emphasis on respect, empathy, compassion, and care, are not just important. They’re the key that unlocks the door to healthy communication where we can reason with our significant others and seek understanding and come to a wholesome resolution. I’m speaking from 10 years of experiencing changes in my own relationship. If it wasn’t for respect, empathy, compassion, and care, we may not have made it through some of the changes we’ve gone through as individuals and as partners. My history could have repeated itself, but I elected to learn from it and I couldn’t be more grateful.
Calix Smith is a Bermudian visual artist and a very deep thinker. Follow him on Twitter @CalixSocrates
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