Hey guys, welcome back! Before we get started, I just wanted to tell those of you who are subscribed to the show that starting next week, I will be releasing episodes on Tuesdays as opposed to Mondays. That fact isn’t so interesting, but I think my reasoning for it is.
I decided that I am no longer going to work on Saturdays because I want to stop working on the Jewish Sabbath. A big part of my religion and culture is honoring that day of rest. And while I don’t connect with all the ways that some people observe the Sabbath, I do really connect with having a day that feels different from the rest of the week.
I’ve been thinking about making this change for a while now and I’ve actually made not worked on Saturdays when I was in the restaurant business, which is the busiest day of the week. So this is not a new concept for me. But when you have your own business, you end up cramming in work wherever you can.
But my four-year-old son, who goes to a Jewish school, asked me last week why I was working on the Sabbath. And that really hit me. He is really getting old enough to notice things like that. I don’t want to say one thing and do another. If I am going to talk about the Sabbath as a day of rest, a day that’s different than other days, then I have to walk the walk.
So, I told him that I will no longer work on the Sabbath. And then I told all my clients that I will not be taking calls or answering messages on Saturdays. And this felt really really good. It felt aligned.
So, what does this have to do with the day this podcast is released? Well, I’m not much of a planner. I just create and then publish. Some podcasters have several episodes done at a time. Not me! I’m recording over the weekend in order to publish on Monday. But since I am no longer going to be working on Saturdays, that shifts my work week. So, from now on you’ll be getting these episodes on Tuesdays!
Ok, so let’s move on to today’s topic. Stop hiding from your relationship. Or another way of phrasing this would be, stop avoiding the issues, or stop sweeping things under the rug. This theme of avoidance has been coming up a lot lately and it really had me thinking.
What exactly do we avoid? And in my opinion, it boils down to 2 things. Conflict Avoidance and Avoidance of Vulnerability. So let’s talk about it and then let’s talk about what to do about it!
Let’s start with conflict avoidance. Essentially, this is fear of your partner getting upset. I think the root issue here is the myth that if there is conflict in my relationship, that is bad. This mindset is detrimental because it creates very unrealistic expectations.
Every single relationship, and yes even the healthiest ones, have conflict. Avoiding conflict is essentially avoiding your relationship. And if you have kids, then your conflict avoidance will most likely be passed on. For more on that topic, check out ep. 64 – What To Do After Fighting in Front of the Kids.
So, why is conflict avoidance such a huge problem? Well, Susan Scott says that “whatever you’re NOT talking about, that IS your relationship.” God, I love that. As long as you’re talking about things – even if it gets heated – you’re in a much better spot than when you’re not. And I’ll tell you why.
When you and your partner are not communicating out of fear of conflict, your brain will start to make shit up. You see, your brain hates uncertainty. It feels very unsafe. So, to protect itself, your brain will fill in the blanks and create stories around what your partner is thinking and going through. And then you will experience your relationship through the lens of that story. But it’s an illusion. It’s not real.
The other issue with conflict avoidance is that it creates conflict within you. When you avoid conflict with your partner, you internalize conflict within yourself. When you don’t’ speak up, you bottle things up little by little which of course leads to resentment.
And lastly, it actually backfires! Because if your goal is to avoid conflict, I have bad news for you, my friend. Conflict avoidance only creates bigger conflict down the road. There is only so long you can sweep things under the rug before you eventually lash out or act out in some way. Then, your partner will be confused because they didn’t know there was a problem. Remember, if you’re not talking it out, you’re acting it out.
Ok now, let’s talk about avoidance of vulnerability. This is similar because it’s still fear based. But now, instead of being anxious that your partner might get upset and there will be conflict, you’re more focused on the risk of being rejected for who you are.
When you get vulnerable, you are exposing yourself. So, then by logic, when you are avoiding vulnerability, you are showing a façade. This sucks for everyone because now you are misaligned – because your outsides definitely do not match your insides – and your partner doesn’t have all the information.
So now they are trying to figure out what’s going on with you, and like I said earlier, the brain does not like uncertainty. So this is where they end up having stories about you. And who can blame them? If you’re not telling them how you’re feeling, then they have no choice but to make assumptions. That’s just how the brain works.
When a couple avoids conflict or avoids vulnerability, they are not in a relationship with each other. They are now in a relationship with the stories they have about each other. If that particular point interests you, check out ep 8 – Are You and Your Partner in Different Relationships?
So, what do you do about avoidance in your relationship? Well, the first step is to reflect and identify what the specific fear is that keeps you quiet and hiding. Some common ones are fear that the problem is unsolvable, fear of the relationship ending, fear of being misunderstood, fear of other unresolved problems coming to the surface. Identifying and labeling the specific fear is so powerful and really sheds light on your avoidant pattern.
Step #2 is you have to decide whether you want to work on your avoidance and understand what that means. Ask yourself, am I willing to be emotionally uncomfortable for the sake of growth and connection in my marriage?
I know it sounds like the answer should be yes but I want you to be really honest with yourself. If you grew up in a household where conflict got violent, you may not want to go there yet. And that’s ok. You’re allowed to be wherever you’re at on your journey. In that case, processing the violence with a therapist would be an appropriate first step.
Or maybe the avoidance allows for you to not take responsibility for your part in the marital issues. There’s no shame in that. Just be honest and own it, at least with yourself. You have to ask yourself. Are you ready to do something differently, even if it feels awkward and scary?
If the answer is yes, then let’s move on to step #3 which is to build evidence. You need to build evidence that when you say the thing you wish you could say, that you won’t actually die. Cause that’s why it feels so scary. Your brain puts you into fight or flight mode because it mistakenly thinks that conflict or vulnerability is dangerous. And as long as your partner isn’t a violent person, this just isn’t so.
So, how do you build evidence? You start small. You start with something that is lower on the emotionally charged scale. So, if every time you and your partner discuss parenting styles, it turns into a screaming match – maybe don’t start there. Start by being more honest about smaller topics.
The example I like to give seems silly but is actually common among couples. Which is logistics. If your partner suggests a certain restaurant for dinner and you don’t want to eat there, speak up and say you don’t want to eat there. If you’re avoidant in you’re relationship, chances are you’re people pleasing. So start with small, concrete, non-emotionally charged topics.
As you practice being honest and not avoiding vulnerability or conflict, you will build evidence that not only is it ok, but that it feels good. Nothing feels better than being true to yourself.
Now I realize that this topic is nuanced and comes with all kinds of underlying fears and anxieties. I can help you squash those. And I can help you stop hiding from your relationship. If you’re ready to get the kind of 1:1 guidance that will actually help you feel happier and more relaxed in your marriage, let’s chat. You can scroll down to the show notes and book a free consultation or you can reach out to me through email or Instagram.