This blog post has taken me some time to get around to… It is a testament to my stellar ability to push an article aside and hope it magically writes itself. Unfortunately, it never does.

We are all culprits of procrastination; the path of least resistance beckons us all, especially after a hard day’s work. After dealing with job stress, a chaotic drive home, and kids fighting in the back seat over who touched who’s arm, I know many would prefer to kick back and relax than face problems in our relationship.

It’s no secret that relationships can be challenging, but I often encounter a recurring theme: a reluctance to confront and address issues head-on.

The Reality Behind Procrastination

Procrastination, the art of delaying or avoiding tasks, is a pervasive human behavior. It’s not just a simple matter of lacking discipline; a complex interplay of psychological and emotional factors is at play.

People tend to procrastinate due to emotional factors such as fear, anxiety, and self-doubt. In a relationship, it might manifest as a reluctance to address uncomfortable issues or confront potentially awkward conversations. 

The brain’s reward system also plays a significant role – we prioritize immediate gratification over long-term benefits. This means we’re more inclined to avoid a difficult conversation today, even if it would lead to a better relationship tomorrow. So why should we talk about the problems in our relationship instead of curling up with a good book or binge-watching the latest Netflix series?

As hard as it may be, addressing issues as early as possible is far better than letting them build and fester, where they grow into something daunting and untenable for both partners.

The Elephant in the Room

Procrastination can be devastating to relationships. Unaddressed issues fester, resentments grow, and emotional distance widens. A small unresolved argument could one day create a chasm between both couples.

While we think we’re avoiding discomfort, we’re exacerbating it. Procrastination creates a negative cycle that may erode trust and intimacy, widening the gap between partners. It is a vicious cycle; the worse the problem becomes, the less we want to confront it.

The Road to Repair

Confronting problems within your relationship takes courage from both parties, and you must both be willing to do so with an open mind where you can learn, understand, empathize, and heal from the hurt.

One Small Step at a Time

Let’s approach this as we would a giant, 10,000-piece jigsaw puzzle—one with some pictures but mostly color. The color is the emotion we are trying to understand and piece together. 

When we begin a jigsaw puzzle, it can be a little overwhelming. We dump all the pieces onto the table, a jumble that makes no sense to anyone. Slowly, you begin sifting through the pieces to find the corners, the edges, the colors that match, and so on.

You want to begin with the easier parts of the puzzle first, to find a structure so that the big picture gradually, over time, begins to appear. This is an excellent way to approach problems in your relationship, especially if you are both prone to procrastination or avoidance.

So, think about a problem you agree upon. Something small you can talk about to open the lines of communication. The goal is to learn how to speak with each other to solve issues harmoniously so that you can gradually incorporate these discussions into your life. This way, when a minor problem arises, you can resolve it before it becomes unmanageable.

The Big Picture

Set clear goals for yourselves and agree to prioritize the health of your relationship. You agree to address issues before they escalate instead of letting them fester or completely ignoring them.

The Importance of Empathy

Empathy allows you to understand and share your partner’s feelings, helping you connect more deeply. It fosters a sense of openness and enables you to discuss your issues. 

Genuinely listen to your partner’s perspective, acknowledge their emotions, and validate their experiences.

Take Time for Self-Reflection

Think about your actions and behavior in your relationship and recognize that they play a part in the dynamics of your partnership. Owning your problems requires self-awareness and a commitment to personal growth.

Celebrate your Progress

Making a change in any form is difficult, but to do it as a couple can be challenging. Take the time to celebrate your small successes and be proud of the progress you make. When we encourage each other, we reinforce positive behavior. 

Seek Professional Help

If there are un-resolved issues that are causing significant issues in your marriage, consider an appointment with a Psychologist specializing in relationship issues. My details are at the end of this article.

Finally, Be Kind to Yourself

Change takes time, patience, and understanding. Resolving issues swept under the rug for extended periods may sometimes feel overwhelming, but be patient with yourself and each other. Know that you are both working towards a common goal, and be compassionate to yourself and each other as you move through this journey together.

To learn more about how to overcome problems within your relationship, download our full course: “Anger and Your Relationship; the Road to Repair.”

Anger and your relationship: The road to repair gives you the skills you need to transform your relationship from conflict to peace-even if your partner does not actively participate in the process. The program consists of 23 short videos and many practical worksheets and exercises. Presented in a way to keep you committed, motivated and engaged. 

If you would like to schedule and appointment with me, please click here

Have you ever had a friend or acquaintance who you must tip-toe around? You find yourself carefully choosing your words because you know, from experience, that something you say may be taken too personally and lead to an argument or misunderstanding. You may feel exhausted after a conversation and decide to step back from the friendship because it is a minefield of emotions waiting to explode. 

When this occurs within a relationship, things can get very tricky. I see this within my practice when one person in the relationship consistently interprets their partner’s actions and words as a personal attack. This instability is unsustainable and can lead to a relationship breakdown, causing emotional distress for both people involved.

The Science Behind the Problem.

When an innocent comment is taken as a slight, a cognitive distortion occurs, which is often seen in psychology. This distortion happens when a person interprets external events or actions of others as a direct reflection of their self-worth. For example, a simple, innocent comment from one person may be perceived as a criticism of their self-esteem, character, or abilities. This distortion can create a vicious cycle of negative interpretations, leading to both people feeling emotionally vulnerable, and inevitably, conflict escalates within the marriage. 

 How Does This Affect Communication?

When one or both partners habitually take things personally, it can destroy a couple’s communication ability in several ways. Firstly, it can lead to defensive responses. Instead of listening to their partner’s perspective, they may instead put up emotional walls and focus on protecting their self-esteem. This defensiveness can, in turn, escalate conflicts, making finding common ground and resolving issues challenging.

When someone is sensitive to constructive criticism or a simple ask for change, even the most minor requests can blow up into a full-blown flight. Let’s take the following couple, Holly and Aiden, who decided to make dinner together, cutting vegetables for a stir-fry. Holly likes the vegetables cut in a certain way; she feels comforted by routine and knows how long each vegetable takes to cook when cut a specific way, making the cooking process more straightforward. Aiden knows his wife’s routine in the kitchen, having helped her before, but tonight, Aiden decides to change things up and cut the vegetables differently. Seeing this, Holly asked, ‘Hey, babe, can you please go back to how we usually cut them? It makes it easier for me.” It was a polite request and one that had reasoning behind it. Aiden responded by slamming down the knife. “I can’t do anything right, can I?” he fumed, swiping the vegies he cut into the bin before walking away and slamming the door behind him.

Aiden took the request personally, leaving Holly in a predicament. She may hesitate to have him help again, choosing instead to do the job herself while quietly feeling resentful. Or, she may react immediately, telling Aiden to ‘Quit taking things so personally,’ but this could lead to a full-blown argument. Either way results in a negative outcome and a situation that leads to feelings of resentment with no resolution.

Secondly, taking things too personally can involve making negative assumptions about your partner’s motives and intentions, creating mistrust and further eroding the ability to communicate effectively. We all misinterpret people’s actions occasionally, but things need to change when this is a default state.

For example, Steven is a devoted father and husband, but once a month, he sets time aside to meet up with his old college mates, something he has been doing for over a decade. The mates all loved a hot curry, and every month, they would challenge themselves to find a new restaurant and order the hottest curry on the menu. It was a bit of a running joke because Steven, despite loving curry, could never handle the heat, so his mates thought it was a hoot watching him sweat and pant his way through his meal as he guzzled down pints of water.

Steven’s wife knew her husband’s routine but was always suspicious. She believed his ‘curry nights’ were a slight at her, interpreting it as him not wanting to spend time with her. This was not true, and he reassured her of this every month, but she still took his night with the boys personally.

This left Steven in a bind as he knew he came home to a grumpy wife every time he left, but he also enjoyed his time with his long-time friends. This situation leads to both people feeling utterly miserable and resentful.

How Does This Impact You Emotionally?

When somebody repeatedly perceives even the most innocent remarks or actions as personal attacks, they may doubt their self-worth and the strength of their relationship. This can lead to feelings of insecurity, anxiety, and depression, creating a toxic emotional environment within the marriage.

This can have a snowball effect where unresolved conflicts and hurt feelings begin to destroy the emotional connection you once shared. 

Emotional intimacy is a vital component of a thriving marriage. Feeling hamstrung and unable to openly share your thoughts and feelings without fear of sparking an adverse reaction can lead to emotional distancing and detachment.

Breaking the Cycle.

This may be a hard pill to swallow; however, we must take a long, hard look at ourselves and admit that we all tend to take things personally and must learn how this affects our relationships. Doing this helps us foster a healthier, more resilient marriage. 

Here are some strategies to break this destructive cycle:

  1. Self-awareness: The first step is recognizing the tendency to take things personally. This awareness can help you differentiate between objective criticisms and perceived attacks on their self-worth.
  1. Open communication: Encourage open and honest communication with your partner. Create a safe space for discussing concerns, emotions, and misunderstandings without judgment or defensiveness.
  1. Empathy: Try to see situations from your partner’s perspective and understand their intentions. This can help prevent misinterpretations and improve mutual understanding.
  1. Seek professional help: If taking things personally is profoundly ingrained and causing significant issues in your marriage, consider an appointment with a Psychologist specializing in relationship issues. My details are at the end of this article.

Taking things personally is a normal human emotion, but it is time to make a change when this begins to impact your relationship. Taking steps to open the lines of communication between yourself and your partner, talking about how this affects your relationship and how you can make daily changes to overcome this habit, helps reestablish communication and pave the way for a solid future where you build a stronger, harmonious relationship.

To learn more about taking things too personally and how to overcome this problem in your relationship, download our mini-course: “Understanding your partner: Unveiling the secrets to a deeper connection.”

In this mini course, we teach you to the art of Irimi. Here you learn to focus on your partner while centering yourself using your ‘wise adult’ frame of mind. Irimi involves using cognitive empathy to understand your partner’s perspective from a loving and harmonious place. There are six techniques that we cover that are designed to foster an environment of unity and togetherness making it difficult for continued hostility. Once you have mastered these steps, you can move on to the next of Verbal Aikido, Aiki.

Our entire course is also available on our website, as well as books, our blog, and other classes., follow the link, and start your journey to a harmonious relationship.

Beth and Tom were happily married for over 25 years— no small feat in today’s world. At first, their friends could not understand how their marriage succeeded, due to numerous perceived shortcomings.

However, closer scrutiny of their marriage revealed that it was their thinking patterns—the ways they explained and interpreted their partner’s behavior to themselves—that strengthened, rather than weakened, their marriage.

Tom’s lack of self-confidence? No problem! This only made Beth feel very caring toward him. His stubbornness and obstinacy? Again, Beth explained this to herself as “I respect him for his strong beliefs, and it helps me have confidence in our relationship.”

Beth’s jealousy? Tom told himself: “this is a marker of how important my presence is in her life.”

Beth’s shyness? No problem! Tom liked it because “she does not force me into revealing things about myself that I don’t want to…this attracts me to her even more.”

Marriage and health

Numerous studies have shown that the health of your marriage plays a major role in determining your overall physical health. Healthy marriage—healthy body!

Hold on to your illusions

Being able to see things in your mate that your friends don’t is a very positive predictor of marital success according to recent research by a professor at the State University of New York. Remarkably, satisfied couples see virtues in their partners that are not seen by their closest friends.
In contrast to this “illusion” by happy couples, dissatisfied couples have a “tainted image” of each other; they see fewer virtues in their mates than their friends do.

The happiest couples look on the bright side of the relationship (optimism). They focus on strengths rather than weaknesses and believe that bad events that might threaten other couples do not affect them. But, what if you are an optimist and your partner is a pessimist? That can work!

Or, the other way around? That can work, too.

However, two-pessimists married to each other place their marriage in jeopardy because when an untoward event occurs, a downward spiral may follow.

Pessimistic scenario

Unlike Optimists, pessimistic partners make permanent and pervasive explanations to themselves when bad events occur. (Conversely, they make temporary and specific explanations to themselves when good events occur.)

See what happens when Susie is late coming home from the office. Husband Jim explains to himself that “she cares more about work than about me!” Susie explains to herself that Jim is sulking because “he is ungrateful for the big paycheck I bring home!” and tells him so.

Jim defends himself by saying: “You never listen to me when I try and tell you how I feel!” Susie, being a pessimist, responds: “You’re nothing but a crybaby!”

Optimistic scenario

Either partner could have stopped this negative spiral by interpreting events differently. Jim could have interpreted Susie’s lateness as a sign of what a hard worker she is and noted she is usually on time. Jim could have seen that her lateness had nothing to do with her love for him, remembering all the times in the past that Susie has put his needs first.
Susie, if she had been an optimist, could have seen his sulking as a temporary state rather than a character flaw and tried to pull him out of it by pointing out that she really wanted to get home earlier, but her big account unexpectedly dropped in at 5:00 o’clock.

The Optimistic Marriage

The message is clear from both clinical experience and research: optimism helps marriage. When your partner does something that displeases you, try hard to find a believable, temporary, and specific explanation for it, i.e.: “He was tired;” “She must really be stressed,” instead of “he’s always inattentive,” or “he’s a grouch.”

On the other hand, when your partner does something great, amplify it with plausible explanations that are permanent (always) and pervasive (character traits), i.e.: “She is brilliant,” or “She is always at the top of her game,” as opposed to “The opposition caved in,” or “What a lucky day she had.”