I was angry with my friend…
You may recognise this as the opening line of the poem by William Blake, A Poison Tree. The tree is said to represent anger which Blake believed to be a type of poison. Is this relevant at this time of year when our thoughts turn to love and romance? Shouldn’t I be making you think of hearts and flowers?
Studies have shown that couples who argue effectively are more likely to have a happy and long term relationship. The key however is effective arguing, not fighting.
Arguing allows emotions to come into the open rather than them stewing. Holding back your feelings can lead to resentment which is unhealthy for a relationship. What is important, however, is how you bring these issues to the table. As with any discussion, it is best not to use inflammatory language be accusatory or judgmental.
Listening is key – for both. Your partner needs to listen to what you have to say but you also have to be open to hear their side. This isn’t about winning or losing but challenging each other and learning about one another. Your difference of opinion has the ability to strengthen your relationship as you understand one another better and reach compromises.
Avoiding a sensitive issue may be seen as avoiding an argument but we know that it is likely to surface at some point and then our ability to discuss it fairly is diminished. Avoidance isn’t the solution and may do more harm to your relationship. Poor communication is often cited in Divorce Petitions as a factor in the marriage breakdown. There is as much risk to not speaking up as speaking.
This is not to say that this Valentine’s Day, you should ditch the card declaring your love and produce a list of your partner’s misdemeanours or annoying habits. It is still good to celebrate your relationship and you don’t want lack of affection and appreciation to necessarily add to other matters! However, true love does take work and a happy relationship might arise from having discussions which show that your partner’s point of view matters to you. And so to return to Blake because the complete first verse sums this up:
“I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe;
I told it not, my wrath did grow.”
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