Elizabeth: Walking on Eggshells

Dear Ron,

I do have one question for you. There are a few topics over which my fiance and I have had heated discussions and sometimes matters have not stood completely resolved or clarified. There are some topics which have become 'touchy' and therefore they are consciously avoided mainly because there are two strong opposing ideas. What would you recommend as the best method of handling this situation appropriately?
I look forward to your reply. God Bless


Thank you for such a good question; this really speaks to a crucial part of relationships. Researchers have determined that learning to manage conflict is often the difference between having a great relationship and a dysfunctional one. It is fine that each of you has strong ideas, but will you respect each other enough to discuss those ideas in a way which will allow you to grow? I think a good way to explain this is to use a metaphor:
Think of ideas like flowers; each of them beautiful individually. If I put only my flowers in the vase and the rest in a drawer, my partner’s ideas will wither and my bouquet will lack its complete potential. Likewise, if only my partner’s flowers are watered then my flowers (ideas) will wither. Sometimes it is so difficult to arrange our ideas that we just put all of them in a drawer where they all wilt and die. To make the bouquet truly beautiful, we will artfully combine my flowers with yours to produce the most elegant combination.

Wise people (yes, not ‘right’ but wise) will make something beautiful from each bunch of ideas. Partners in healthy relationships consider each idea valuable, allowing them to be openly and respectfully discussed; EVEN WHEN we don’t think our partner’s ideas make sense.  You are building a relationship, not a business. When ideas are put in a drawer because discussing them is too difficult, eventually the relationship dies a slow death. I have not said that you must agree on every idea; absolutely not; the idea is to make the relationship grow, not to simply be ‘right’. Sometimes we respectfully agree to disagree (not passive-aggressively) to discuss the matter at a later time. Have I convinced you that it is imperative to respectfully discuss your ideas?

Your email title ‘Walking On Eggshells’, however, speaks to an extreme lack of idea sharing and respect. That can mean many things, but if anger is always present when some topic is discussed (presuming each of you is of sound mind and free of addictions), it probably means there is displaced anger. For example, if I get upset each time you try to bring up the topic of my tardiness, my anger would not be about your question, but caused by some negative association I am making in my mind. That, by the way, is my hill to climb and not yours.

Further, if there is a consistent/persistent pattern of anger around a variety of topics being raised, there is some other problem to solve.  As I implied above, perhaps an addiction (even to anger) is the cause, or perhaps the angry person just needs to be heard. Whatever the cause, it must be solved if you wish to have a fruitful life together. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance, and blessings on your relationship.

Ron Kaufmann, MA, CO LPC #11336, EMDR Clinician
National Certified Counselor #267299
AASAT Certified Sexual Recovery Therapist
Recovering Hearts Counseling


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