Ask Kirsten: Why can’t we communicate?

Dear Kirsten,

I’ve been in a relationship with my partner for two years now, so we’ve definitely gotten to know each other pretty well. Even though we’ve spent all this time together, we still have trouble communicating. It seems we’re never on the same page and every conversation turns into an argument. It’s getting to be incredibly frustrating and taking away from the happy times we have together. Is there always a way to fix the communication? Or are some people just totally incompatible in that aspect?

Sincerely, Communication Frustration

Dear Frustration,

You know the cliché, “opposites attract?” Well, there’s a ton of truth to that old saying. We humans are typically drawn to individuals who have similar values and interests, but very different personalities and strengths. This makes for steamy chemistry early in the relationship (during the honeymoon stage) and heated conflict later on (during the working stage). You might find yourself thinking, Why doesn’t my partner think the way I do? Or Why the heck doesn’t she/he do things the way I do? The answer is: You wouldn’t have chemistry with an exact clone of yourself. We’re drawn to people who challenge us, sometimes drive us crazy, and in the end, cause us to grow.

You two are definitely over the honeymoon stage, so it makes sense that you are going through a stage of high conflict. That being said, we don’t want it to stay that way. Take a moment to list off the core arguments that you guys are having. Usually you will see a theme. Sit down with each other when you are rested, sober and calm, and discuss ways that you can break your pattern of conflict. Instead of saying, “You always do [blank],” try using classic “I feel” statements. “I feel frustrated when I ask you to clean out the litter box and you continually forget.” “I feel annoyed when you drink too many Moscow Mules and start flirting with everyone at the table.” Make requests of your partner that will calm you or meet your needs (See? You’re helping them to grow.) and volunteer ways that you can meet them halfway. (Look at you! Expanding and evolving.)

We’re drawn to people who challenge us, sometimes drive us crazy, and in the end, cause us to grow.

Lastly, don’t hesitate to reach out to a relationship counselor if the never-ending fighting continues. A therapist will help you to practice new communication and conflict resolution techniques. They will also identify any unhealthy behaviors or signs of emotional/verbal abuse, if present. No relationship is conflict-free, but there are plenty of ways to manage it so you can spend more time fawning and less time fighting.

Sincerely, Kirsten

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Ask Kirsten on As One Loves is published as a community service with the intention of addressing reader-submitted questions about relationship issues. Written by Kirsten Brunner, MA, LPC, a licensed professional counselor, this column is not a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or actual psychotherapy. Always seek the advice of a licensed mental health professional, without delay and in person, regarding questions you may have about any mental health symptom or medical condition. Never disregard other professional advice because of something you have read on Reader-submitted questions are anonymous to protect the questioner’s identity, chosen by the As One Loves team, and may be edited for spelling, grammar, clarity, and length.

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