Many couples experience the “elephant in the room” phenomenon. Often described as something in the way of feeling true closeness, it is a barrier between the couple that is interfering with the pure togetherness they once felt in the relationship. Typically, the fear is too great that opening the discussion will lead to more unresolved conflict, so they ignore it in the hopes it will resolve itself. They keep living every day, laughing on occasion when its a good day but the relationship is not fulfilling or happy.
The following is part 2 of our Elephant in the Room series.
If you have not read part 1, 10 Signs You Have an Elephant in the Room, read the article here.
There are many reasons couples chose not to deal with this dysfunction in their relationship. As human beings, we develop habits or dysfunctions throughout our life that can stand in the way of developing healthy relationships. Professionals in the mental health field understand that left to fester, the “elephant” is a relationship destroyer.
Rest assured, with the appropriate skills around communication, it is highly likely that you can become very good at communicating your needs and resolving concerns. As you read through our list, think about your partner, your relationship and your goals – the results you would like to see with your partner.
In this article, we introduce some helpful (and constructive) ways to approach this issue in your relationship that has grown to a mammoth size because you tried to sweep it under the rug.
Come From a Place of Love and Respect
Remember, this is your partner that you love. As well, you are reading this article because you want to improve your relationship. Operate only with love and respect when thinking and speaking to your partner.
If you do not know how to approach the subject with love and respect or don’t quite know what that looks like, reach out to your local professional for a deeper understanding of yourself and your partner. Some people just need dialog to stay focused and not let their emotions drive the conversation.
Don’t Assume the Worst
Be direct and try not to assume the “worst “ from your partner. Having preconceived notions about what the “elephant” in your relationship is to your partner. If you do not have an idea what the barrier is and you assume, it can railroad your communications and lead to negative outcomes.
Timing is Very Important
Set aside a time that works for both parties and preferably one that is fairly regular so that the “meeting” doesn’t seem awkward or tense. Make certain there will not be an interruption that could interfere with a natural and positive flow of conversation.
Wait Until You Are Calm
Timing really is everything here as well. If you are emotional about something that has happened – likely another sign of the elephant – then wait until you are not in a reactive state. Don’t be impulsive about wanting to clear the air, if you want the best outcome. Certainly wanting to clear the air is a natural feeling but rushing the process can cause more conflict. Stay calm and be ready to listen.
Be Awareness of Your Own “Agenda”
If your motives are pure – meaning you do not have another agenda for wanting to address this elephant – then the outcome will likely be a positive path to a healthy relationship. If you have an underlying reason other than advancing you relationship to the next level, you must be honest with yourself. If you think there is another motive, seek counseling for yourself first before opening a discussion with your partner.
Focus on What You See
Come from a place of “me” not “you.” Tell your story. What are you experiencing in the relationship that has brought you to this point? How does this elephant reveal itself in your relationship? Say “I feel_________, when this happens.” Your partner will feel less defensive if you speak in “I” terms.
It is understandable to feel anxious or fearful to talk about serious things in relationships. The fear of the unknown, or even the known can be overwhelming. What is going to happen after? How will this possibly change your relationship? Remember, the whole reason you are bringing it up is because you care about the relationship. You’re not addressing the issue to persecute or place blame; you want to fix the situation to move into a better place with your partner.
To just to say “breathe” may seem elementary but it is a real strategy. When you take a break and focus on your breath, it instills a sense of calm. Reflection in the midst of a stressful situation can be extremely productive. As we’ve all heard many times and this holds very true here; “think before you speak.”
Remember you want a better relationship. Focus on the facts. and compose options to discuss dealing with only one issue at a time. Don’t get confused by lumping other issues, even though they may be related, into this discussion. Your goal is to build a strong foundation and to minimize potential conflict. A healthy and strong relationship develops from dealing with issues together. Blaming will only increase the barrier your working so hard to break down. Focus on “us” rather than “me.”
All in all, communicating is the most important thing that can bind or destroys a relationship. Many things come up in relationships so it is great to “arm “ yourself with the communication skills necessary to work through almost any topic. It would be good to implement strategies to make your relationship whole again. Of course, it takes two people willing to make it better. If it is apparent as a couple that you cannot advance on your own, it may be time to seek professional guidance to build and develop your communication skills.
This preventive approach can lay the groundwork for many happy resolutions going forward in your future and remember…
Embrace Your Life!