-- Question for John --
I have been with my boyfriend 7 months now. I truly believe he is my best friend and soulmate yet we have trouble resolving issues as quickly as we’d like to or as easily. In the last 4 months, we have been arguing about issues, some more important then others. We need to stop arguing and getting defensive. How do we bring up issues without getting defensive?
-- Answer from John --
You are experiencing the number one reason couples don’t make it.
Arguments can eventually ruin a relationship, no matter how much love is there. Love is not enough. It is destructive to keep arguing or reacting defensively when trying to communicate. Sooner or later, things get said or done that can never be taken back. I have worked with many people after breakups, and most of them deeply regret having said or done certain things when they were arguing — and they would give anything to be able to go back in time and have done something different.
The important difference between couples that split up and those who stay together, is NOT that couples who stay together have less issues that could lead to fights. And, it is NOT that couples who stay together are soulmates. Even soulmates break up if they cannot learn to communicate well.
In fact, just about all couples have about the same amount of issues to deal with. The difference is that couples who stay together have learned better communication skills to handle their issues. Couples who learn communication skills that help them respectfully overcome their problems will stay together and have lasting love. Couples who just keep reacting either sink into permanent unhappiness or eventually split up. It’s a question of being soulmate, cell mates, or ex-mates.
Since all couples have problems from time to time, if you want longterm happiness together, then I suggest you and your partner have a very open, honest and caring conversation about the importance of learning better skills for communicating. In other words, instead of trying to talk about one of the specific issues or problems you are having, talk about your main stumbling block for resolving all your issues. Which is the form your communication is taking right now.
Come to the clear realization with each other that the way you are communicating right now is NOT getting you the results you want. For either of you. In fact, realize that it is probably already damaging your ability to really share the high-quality, fully free kind of love and passion you had before these problems. And agree that the most important thing right now is to learn how to undue any of the damage done so far, to learn how to communicate differently and better from now on, and to break down any walls that have been built up due to the poor communication that has happened.
Learn some new communication tools that will support you to keep your love positive and strong. How you communicate with each other, and the emotional intelligence you develop, determines whether you can build a rock-solid relationship — or just end up on the rocks.
I would suggest that you sit down together with your partner and make an agreement to learn new communication skills that will help you better resolve conflicts. You have an incredibly important opportunity here to develop new skills. Do that, and you dramatically increase your chances to beat the odds and to enjoy a relationship filled with lasting love and happiness.