When romantic partners encounter differences, they usually try to talk about it. Conventional wisdom tells us that this is an essential way to work things out. Unfortunately, talking about it often leads to arguments and hurt feelings.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, NOT talking about it can be a good idea.
That's right. A psychologist, who makes her living "talking about it," says, "Don't talk about it!" There is, of course, a world of difference between romantic partners talking about it and a psychologist and client talking about it. Only one is being paid for expertise by a presumablly willing, even eager, client.
The case for letting it ride
1) Getting the effect you're hoping for by talking about it requires an exceptional partner.
While we are infatuated, we believe that our partners are exceptional. We mistakenly believe that being in love inspires exceptional willingness to make accomodations. And, though we say we don't believe in fairytales, we believe that our love story will be exceptional.
Sooner or later, it becomes apparent that our love story is no fairytale, and we feel compelled to confront our partners and talk about it. Then, we learn that our partners are not at all exceptional in one very important way. They seem unwilling or unable to change to better suit us.
2) Spouses are not renovation projects.
As differences emerge and disenchantment sets in, partners air dissatisfactions, hoping for behavior change.
When we air dissatisfactions and request behavior changes, we think we are being reasonable. We tell ourselves and our partners that we are simply giving feedback, offering constructive criticism, trying to improve the relationship. In fact, we are attempting to renovate our partners.
When we receive requests for behavior change, we recognize that our partners want to change us. We feel criticized, under-appreciated, attacked. We react defensively or counter attack.
Unhealthy habits of interaction take shape.
3) Although you cannot change your partner, you can change yourself.
To improve your relationship, practice these behaviors: