Expert Author Susan Leigh
We've all had relationships that have stalled at times, where something has gone wrong, been misinterpreted or been genuinely perceived as an abuse of the relationship. If you feel the relationship is worth saving, are unable to simply walk away, still have to meet each other or can't avoid each other it's important to navigate ways through the situation and sort out the tension in your relationship.
- Discuss it. There may be times when don't want to talk about what's happened or feel there's no point, we've hit an impasse where neither will agree. Indeed sometimes talking can exacerbate tensions and make the situation worse. But there are times when it can help and even improve your relationship. It may allow you to gain a better understanding of each other's point of view and an insight into how you're perceived.
- Appreciate the role of a mediator. This doesn't have to a formal arrangement, but it may be helpful to include a third-party who's acceptable to you both and keeps any discussions on track. Agree to meet in a neutral place and be sure that both of you've allowed enough time so that your session doesn't need to be rushed.
- Relax your reaction. Rather than adopting the role of victim, where you feel that the tension in your relationship is directed at you, instead entertain the notion that the other person's behaviour may have been innocent. For example, they may not have ignored you, but instead didn't see you. They may not have invited you along to an event because they thought you'd not be interested. Sometimes thoughtless behaviour can be misinterpreted as offensive or rude. And those momentary lapses can often be compounded over time, with each further slight reinforcing the problem. Nip tension in the bud, is it really such a big deal? Now it's time to move on.
- Change your perspective. Sometimes one person in a relationship may feel that the other has changed and they're at a loss as to how to deal with the new you. Why couldn't things stay the same! If they're happy as they are and are resistant to moving out of their comfort zone they may feel that you flying high, forging a new life for yourself, moving away from the 'old life' highlights their complacency or lack of ambition. They may feel frustrated, defensive at their own lack of drive and inertia, irritated that things are being stirred and shaken up. We all have different goals and dreams; different paths suit different people. Be sensitive to theirs whilst enjoying your own.
- Listen and practise empathy. You know your own motivations, understand your feelings but haven't we all had exchanges where someone else's comment or logic has revolutionised our outlook in an, 'I never thought of it like that' way. Listening allows for subtle as well as momentous insights to transform our thinking.
- Seek to understand. You know deep down that the other person isn't bad or evil. If you've been friends or had a relationship for a while you know the tension in your relationship could be the consequence of a personal situation they're struggling with. They may be in the midst of something they're perhaps too ashamed or embarrassed to share. Be generous. There may be some merit in allowing them a little latitude.
- Remove your ego from the story. We can feel hurt, angry, upset, dismayed and run with a 'how could they, why me, don't they appreciate how nice/lovely/tolerant/understanding I am!' mindset. When there's tension in our relationship we're often able to justify our own feelings, but that interpretation is usually distorted by our personal viewpoint of what's been said or done. Remove your ego and stop explaining yourself, arguing your case or making 'witness testimony'. Allow yourself to be vulnerable, human and even criticised. Really listen to what the other person has to say.
- Present a charm offensive. If you know the other person is acting out of character, suspect they're in a bad place or are perhaps jealous, lonely or feeling unloved you could significantly improve the tension in your relationship by being extra nice and winning them over with kindness and charm. There may be no excuse for their bad behaviour but you may well oil the wheels of your relationship and make for a more pleasant environment. That in itself could be worth it, may be worth letting things go for!
Sometimes all it takes is a little time, thought and insight to help sort out the tension in your relationship. Any or all of the points raised here can add real benefits to those potentially damaging situations.