If you look around a bit, it seems that in most "stable" relationships partners communicate more through grumbling and sarcasm, than with warmth and respect. These same partners, if somebody years ago suggested that they sit down and make a serious agreement about how their life together should look like, would probably say something like "but this is so unromantic!" or "What is there to talk about, we'll solve problems as they come!".
Some years later, more serious challenges appear - maybe financial problems, intrusive relatives, demanding or sick children. Each partner responds to stress as they have learned in their families. The desire to please the partner has in the meantime faded away, and every disagreement causes more tension and frustration. Without pre-determined strategies to respond to problems and disagreements, both have a vast array of immature and inappropriate reactions to choose from.
Reacting in a healthy and mature way to continuous irritations is often not easy, because it requires responsibility and thoughtfulness just in the moments when we are at our most subjective and most impulsive. In such moments, it is good to have a firm agreement, preferably on a sheet of paper, which you can remind yourself of. It's easier to make a fair, balanced agreement while both parties still feel mutual trust and desire to invest in the relationship.
Therefore I suggest, if you plan to marry or move in with your potential partner, that you sit down together and discuss your expectations, attitudes about specific potential problems and personal quirks. Even if it may seem too formal, I recommend that you write down the essential parts of your agreement. Later, you will probably be glad you did. If your partner refuses such a conversation, tries to ridicule or belittle your suggestions, this is a good indication of how (s)he is likely to act later in the relationship. Notice if you start finding excuses for such behavior and ignore the warning signals in your body.
To start with, let both of you think separately of (and ideally write down) your views on the following topics, and then discuss them together:
I recommend that you talk to other couples about their experiences, what problems do they face and how (and if) they solve them. A good approach is to make a deal that you will follow for about a year, and after one year to make a "revision" - discuss what do you do well, what does not work and what attitudes might have changed in the meantime.
One of the biggest mistakes in such a discussion is believing that your view is the only correct one. Perhaps it is right for you, but someone else might have totally different feelings, beliefs, constitution and so on. What is important to note is the way you communicate. Do both of you show compassion, understanding and respect even if you disagree? Are you able to at least partially adapt to the needs of the other?
If your partner doesn't show much interest in your feelings, if (s)he communicates like an irresponsible adolescent, you can expect this problem to continue and increase in the later stages of the relationship. You need to decide whether you can accept such shortcomings and live with them, even if they eventually get worse, or not. If your partner's behavior doesn't feel acceptable to you, it's a good idea to check why do you stay in such relationship. Are you bonded by fear of being alone, by the hope that your partner will "magically" change (or that you will be able to save him/her), or do you feel that you have to be with this person, but don't know why? Check also our article Patterns in Love Relationships.
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