“A conversation about how you feel is not supposed to end in an argument” The Mind Journal
I’ve been reflecting recently on themes of authenticity and attachment, two essentials for healthy living. We have to attach, from infancy, in order to survive. We have to express our authentic selves in order to live well and thrive. And yet, the two are not always compatible. Some 25% of the population emerges from childhood with an attachment pattern that is insecure, meaning that they have learned to limit aspects of their authenticity in close relationships. This may be suppressing themselves and overly adapting to those around them in anxious attachment. It may be distancing and repressing their natural desire to attach in avoidant attachment. It may be a confusing chaos of the two, wanting so much to have closeness, but simultaneously fearing others as dangerous should their guard be lowered, and both clinging and pulling away as a result..
This quote from The Mind Journal resonated for me, illuminating the tension that can arise between expressing our truth, and staying connected. For many people, expression of their feelings has in the past led to conflict, shaming, or even abandonment. They may fear speaking up because they know they will be argued with, ridiculed or worse, they will be alone. When this has arisen it can be hard to say what we feel, and when we do, we may do so with such brittleness that the authentic message gets lost in the noise of the delivery style, further affirming the inadvisability of speaking up.
In healthy relationships, the feelings of both parties are validated and honoured. You will not always be agreed with, difference is both inevitable and healthy. Curious and loving enquiry can deepen understanding between you as your varying perspectives are explored. Experimentation can lead to more skilful exchanges, and to navigating and delighting in your individuality as you navigate over, around and past the bumps that any authentic relating will bring.
The key to this is the underlying assumption that you are both OK, just as you are. From this place of self acceptance and acceptance of the other, foibles and irritations are not so important, they are just the challenges of being together, more than made up for by the warmth of connection and belonging. From acceptance comes a willingness to play and grow, to learn together, because there is a sense of safety in which much more is possible.
This does not mean to say that anything goes, it doesn’t. We all have red lines and so we should. The art is knowing the difference between the growing pains of all healthy relationships, and the signs of dysfunction that result in imbalance, unhappiness or even abuse.
If conversations in your relationship about how you each feel most often end in argument, it’s time to take a look at the dynamics of what is happening between you, and the beliefs you hold about yourself and each other. If you need facilitation and support to do this, then couples counselling may be for you.