by Katina Hubbard

Three of my closest friends broke up this weekend. Not with each other, but with their respective partners. I try not to let astrological predictions effect my life, instead I let astrological wisdom support me in navigating the energies of the world. But when Susan Miller’s astrological forecast for this weekend (two days before and after April 15th) said “hide under a rock,” I took note.

That’s not to say it’s a bad thing or that astrology caused the break ups. Sometimes, though, a little energetic push from the universe can cause us to take action where we were otherwise stalling. I felt the same energy in my own relationships, which got me thinking about how to deal with inevitable rough patches.

And then I got my e-mail from The Current Conscious. This guy, Yashar Ali, really blows me out of the water. After reading his articles I often feel like he’s god’s gift to women, albeit a slightly irate one.

In his recent article he talks about “relationship maintenance.” He defines it by explaining:

“When I say ‘maintenance,’ I mean a collective addressing of issues and concerns as they come along, not letting issues or tensions in the relationship get too big, and most importantly, talking through behaviors, actions, situations that hurt both you and your partner–not just talking about stuff that causes anger.”

I’ve never heard of “relationship maintenance” but intuitively it makes a lot of sense and feels like something we’re all doing (or not doing), without knowing it. Let’s break it down:

  1. Addressing problems when they happen
  2. Not letting issues or tensions become bigger than what they really are
  3. Talking through behaviors, actions, and situations that cause each person pain
  4. Not only talking about things when one or both people are upset

It may be because Susan Miller told me to hide under a rock and I didn’t, but it seems like I’m missing a lot of things from this list. I’ve heard the old adage that relationships are a lot of work, but never before been put so specifically to task.

Dealing With Dirty Laundry

Yashar does an amazing job voicing the female perspective and addressing issues the male hegemony has avoided/overlooked/denied for many moons. He taught me that a lot of the aforementioned relationship maintenance gets avoided by “gaslighting,” that is, instead of addressing the issue or concern you brought up, one person avoids talking about it by telling the other “that isn’t a problem, you are the problem.” His definition is, “manipulative behavior used to confuse people into thinking their reactions are so far off base that they’re crazy.”

Additionally, Yashar says “gaslighting comes as a consequence of him [or her] refusing to acknowledge or deal with his own emotional inadequacies.”

Isn’t this what we’re all doing in a nutshell: trying to avoid dealing with our own emotional inadequacies? It seems like a major key in healthy relationships is doing this maintenance work, and making it fun!

Here are my tips for avoiding gas lighting incidents:

1. Prohibit the “you”, mandate the “I”

When two people become emotionally triggered, oftentimes the conversation becomes about each person voicing their grievances, and blaming the other (for example: “you’re making me feel this way!” “you’re doing this to me!”) instead of talking about the issue. One way to turn a situation away from blaming and pointing fingers is to prohibit “you” statements and instead use  “I feel” statements. “You’re making me feel hurt” turns to “I feel hurt, scared, and like you’re blaming me.” When we start talking about our feelings, not only can we communicate our current state better but we start to feel the sympathy and love for one another we may be forgetting in the moment.

Practicing displays of affection when you’re in the middle of an argument can help you both re-connect to the love you feel for each other.

2. Touch each other

There are professionals who have broken down exactly what a positive relationship looks like. One of those things includes using loving touching to communicate when words are “failing.” When I have an argument with my boyfriend, anyone would know it by our body language – we’re standing, crossed arms, meters away from each other. Forcing yourself to act loving can help to remind each other, in a literal way, that you care for each other and you’re doing the best you can to make it work. The jolt of energy when skin touches can do wonders for me when I’m feeling isolated and misunderstood. Acting loving when you’re feeling angry can be a hard habit to implement. Fake it till you make it!

3. Find an ally

Often people only talk about their relationships to one another when they have something to complain about. I find it’s almost uncouth to tell a friend what a great boyfriend I have and something amazing we discovered about our relationship. But talking to people who we respect and trust about our love relationships can be a valuable way to gain perspective and prevent misunderstandings. It must be someone who’s opinion you value and who is mature enough to be neutral about your issues. For many people this is a professional counselor.

4. Take the time

It takes time, thoughtfulness, and patience to clearly communicate with another human being, especially when you are both feeling emotional. Setting aside time specifically to talk about your relationship can allow you to focus all of your positive energy on the issues while preventing the negative emotions from effecting other areas of your life. If you’re a super-couple, setting aside time to talk about your relationship proactively (as in, without any negative things to talk about) can be a great way to keep the love flowing. So often if I give my boyfriend the space to vent or tell me something that’s upsetting him, he’ll actually have something to say that he wouldn’t have brought up otherwise.

Accept the Gifts

Deep down, we’re all doing the best we can to love, be loved, and live in harmony with each other. In fact, avoiding our emotional inadequacies may be a subconscious strategy to avoid pain for ourselves and others, and instead keep up a facade of harmony. However, the universe never stands still, so neither can we. But our biggest challenges, our triggered heightened emotions, and the situations that scare us the most, are actually opportunities we’ve been gifted to grow and change. As we evolve, our relationships will bring us deeper love and more harmony, so let’s remember not to look at the rough patches as problems, but opportunities!