3 Empowering Pathways out of a Relationship Communication Meltdown

People often ask Aaron and I how it is that we are happily married, live together, work together and travel together 24 x 7. That can’t be easy, they say. And they’d be right…

To be completely honest, despite 14 years of loving companionship, Azz and I are like any couple and we have had to learn how to communicate and support each other in order to thrive both as individuals as well as together as a couple. That’s not always been easy! Being nomadic means we don’t often have our friends or family around us physically and so at times we literally only have each other. That’s a lot to put on a couple who are also working together 7 days a week and going out on a limb to create new goals and dreams day by day.

Communication Meltdowns

There are moments when we do hit a communication meltdown. One of us might be having an off day, we might disagree on what the best way is to do something or, one or both of us is going through a period of personal growth as we confront and breakthrough our own personal beliefs and obstacles.

Pathways Out

Whatever the reason, over breakfast one morning we realised that we’ve always used the same 3 positive pathways out of any communication meltdown, and now we remember to use these steps in any tough moments so that we have a map to get us back on track. While they apply to our relationship as partners, these 3 pathways are applicable and useful for any type of relationship, be it friendship, family or workplace.

Azz and I are not afraid of sharing this all with you, of you seeing who we really are and hearing how we navigate our challenges. We believe that through sharing, everyone gets to grow. So here are our tried and tested positive pathways for resolving a relationship communication meltdown:

1. Ask no more than they can give

One of our wedding vows was this: “I promise to ask no more of you than you can give”.

We live this wedding vow in our daily life. When we said it we meant it, and when you mean something, you let it guide your actions.

If you’re at loggerheads with someone over a particular issue, or they’re not being the way you want them to be, or they’re not fulfilling your expectations in some way, it’s important to really see where they are at and recognise that often people only have so much to give. They have their own thoughts, challenges, feelings, questions, physical well-being and responsibilities to take care of. When you love someone dearly, you make the effort to understand when they are unable to give any more. Be alert and aware to recognise when the other person is doing their very best but has nothing left to give, and then ask no more of them.

2. Use the meltdown as a mirror

Relationships are life’s best way of helping us to grow, and showing us what we need to heal, transform and go beyond. Often relationship meltdowns happen because one person is unhappy with how the other person is being or what the other person is doing. Now, that might be entirely valid. However, in any situation if you’re presented with feedback suggesting that you’re the issue and that you change the way you are being or what you’re doing, rather than going into automatic response mode (which for most people is turning the tables back on the other person and then defending themselves), take a moment to see this meltdown as a mirror reflecting back to you what life wants you to learn.

Consider – if you were to adapt how you behave, what you think, what you do, how you treat the other person, and that benefited them, consider how that might also benefit you? Is there something that the other person sees as possible for you, a higher and better way of being, that would in fact not only help them and your relationship, but would in fact result in you expanding beyond your own limiting ways of being and learning new tools/habits/ways that would support your own thriving.

3. Write it out

I don’t know about you, but relationship communication meltdown for me usually means I’m not in a good space for articulating what I really need to and want to say. At times when a relationship communication breakdown happens, the fact you care so much combined with frustration, can end up creating heated debate. In the heat of the moment, you’re not as capable of communicating what your heart truly wants, as the ego goes into defense mode. All sorts of unrelated things get dragged into debates, like the past, other things that you find frustrating, and before you know it, the original reason for the disagreement has been lost in a sea of ego-related palava!

So, Azz and I have learnt that our most authentic and loving voice always comes out when we write. If we end up at a stalemate on resolving a disagreement, then we write down how we feel, what the key issue is, what outcome we are seeking, and we also express how much we care for the other person in order to reach out to them and bridge the gap. We’ve only had to use this approach a handful of times in 10 years, when we’re both passionately attached to an issue that seems unresolvable. Every time we’ve written our message, and the other has replied, it has instantly not only created a resolution but also taken our relationship up a notch in a positive way.

Warmest wishes, Bernadette

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7 Responses

  1. Hi B and Aaron, great advice we have used this in the past and still do:) Patience is also the key to a great relationship and don’t be afraid to lean on your partner when times are tough personally as they understand you best.

    1. Hey Bill, great insights, so true! Being able to lean on each other is one of the special gifts of a relationship 🙂

  2. The one that unfailing works for us when we get stuck is – after taking a bit of time out – asking each other “what do you want”? We both get a turn and always find in the answers something, and often lots of things, that we agree on, with those, we are able to move forward.

    1. Nice Rosie! Thanks for sharing. It’s like opening up the floor for communication brings out all sorts of useful resolutions and paths forward. B 🙂

  3. I do agree with you that relationships are a great opportunity for us to grow – often people that are closest to us present us with the greatest challenges when it comes to polishing our own personality. What I would add to these tips is watching your tone. Getting overly emotional in a conversation can cause the other person to not really assimilate the words, but only hear the tone and this can lead to a storm. Keeping a calm, quiet voice while trying to communicate things really helps to keep unnecessary emotions out of the table and resolutions come a lot quicker!

    1. Indeed! I find that writing out the thoughts/words to communicate means that in the midst of any ‘storm’ the message can get across in its pure intent, without the misunderstanding of tone and emotions wreaking havoc! Funny you should mention ‘tone’ as it’s so true, through a lot of corporate based coaching work and negotiations over the years, I found that being conscious of tone of voice was just as important as being concise and clear on what you’re saying. People tune into the slightest nuances in your communication when a lot is at stake. Thanks for your comments. B 🙂

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