8 steps to overcome past differences with your partner
Incompletenesses in relationships – unfinished business, unresolved issues, emotional baggage, irreconcilable differences, misunderstandings – call them what you will, but they’re not good for relationships. How do you overcome differences with your partner?
We call them incompletenesses, which seems a fitting term, because their presence makes us feel like something is missing, incomplete, or unfinished in our relationships. What is missing is a feeling that things are okay between us, that our connection is complete as it is, and that nothing needs to be done or said for each of us to feel safe and at peace during this time .
When we feel incomplete there is a nagging sense that something is wrong and we don’t feel a sense of ease, trust and connection.
Some couples experience a pervasive sense of incompleteness because they have failed to adequately address and come to terms with the broken places between them, and now they believe that feeling is the norm—they don’t even expect to experience anything else.
This perception is not only unfortunate and painful; it is also dangerous, as it can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy that cements that belief into an enduring reality.
Incompleteness always occurs when a problem is not adequately dealt with in a way that both partners are, at least for the time being, settled.
This does not necessarily mean that it is resolved and reconciled once and for all; rather, there is a sense of acceptance of things as they are, and there are no unspoken feelings of resentment or disappointment being held back.
When an incompleteness is not addressed openly and in a timely manner, it impacts our ability to experience deep connection, intimacy , and empathy in our relationship.
Like a messy bucket of trash in the kitchen, the longer it sits there, the lazier it gets. In our effort to avoid opening a can of worms, many of us instead build up a tolerance to the smell rather than take it out. When we develop this tolerance, however, our motivation to clean up decreases – and the vicious circle remains unbroken.
To become complete, we must be willing to take the risk of flipping the apple cart — something we’re more likely to risk if we have confidence in our ability to repair any damage or damage that occurs in the process.
However, if we are inexperienced in handling differences skillfully, we are unlikely to have much confidence that the process will lead to a successful outcome. All the more reason to learn how to deal with incompleteness. While there may be awkward moments, we are far more likely to become more adept at this work, addressing issues directly when they arise, rather than avoiding them.
Here are 8 guidelines you might find useful: Steps to Overcoming Differences with Your Partner
1. Acknowledge to your partner that you have an incompleteness.
This can be a simple statement such as, “There is something I feel incomplete about and I want to talk to you about it. Is this a good time?”
2. If your partner says yes, go to step 3.
If he or she says no, try to agree on a time that is convenient for both of you.
Be specific and make sure you both have enough time to do it justice. Expect the conversation to last longer than you think.
3. To start the conversation, state your intention.
It should be something that both of you will ultimately benefit from, such as, “My hope that we both raise my concern is that I can feel more complete and that we can both experience more trust and understanding with each other.
4. Give your partner some guidance to help him or her
to know how I can best support you in this process
For example, “It would help if you could just let me explain what I feel and need without interrupting me. I feel like I failed to get my feelings and concerns clear and I would like to try again. When I’m done I’d love to hear your answer and I’ll do my best to understand your point of view. I really appreciate your willingness to have this conversation with me now.”
5. Express Your Feelings, Needs, and Worries
A lack of communication ruins everything
and ask any questions you would like your partner to answer.
Try to speak in terms of your experience, as this reduces the likelihood that your partner will feel blamed or judged and will be less defensive. If he or she gets defensive or interrupts you, ask if you finish first so you can be a lot more open to what he or she is saying after you feel like he or she heard you.
6. Show the same respect you asked your partner for
by listening attentively, not just to his or her words, but to the underlying feelings.
Resist the temptation to “correct” anything you don’t agree with. One thing to keep in mind: Not disagreeing with someone doesn’t necessarily mean you agree with them.
7. Walk back and forth until you reach a point
feeling like the energy between the two of you has brightened and you both feel more relaxed, understood, and hopeful.
An imperfection does not absolutely have to be resolved in order to create a positive outcome. Some imperfections require many discussions before they are reconciled to the satisfaction of both partners.
8. When you hit a dead end that becomes insurmountable despite your best efforts, instead of trying to overcome it, pause the conversation
or agree to continue the dialogue at another time after both of you reset your intentions.
Regardless of the outcome, thank your partner for joining your commitment to deepening the quality of trust and understanding in your relationship.
Admittedly, this is an abbreviated version of the process of completion; you will learn much more if you make the effort by noticing the consequences of your interactive patterns. Try to the best of your ability to be respectful, non-judgmental, non-blaming, and responsible in your words. Most of us are far more sensitive to blame, judgment, and criticism than we appear to others. The less defensive and reactive you can be, the more open your partner should be.
The process of becoming perfect is one of the best things you can do for your relationship. There is a learning curve, but it doesn’t take a genius to master it.
So get to work: you have nothing to lose but your imperfections.