Relationship Triage: Step 2

Step 2: Assess the Damage

Once you can subdue the bleeding, step 2 is to assess the damage. When you are not dodging verbal daggers from one another, you have some space to start identifying the roots of the conflict.  If you are fighting about anything and everything, then you are not talking about the right thing. The task at hand is to get to core issues driving all these fights. Step 2 is only successful as an individual activity.  

Think about your recent fights and the things that bother you about your relationship or partner. You can surely make a list of problems and dislikes. These are likely not the core problem but rather a symptom of it. Getting to the core is one of the hardest parts . 

Ask yourself: What is it that continues to hurt me in the relationship? What is it that I react to the most strongly? Why does it bother me so much? What does your partner do that sends you through the roof and why do you believe they do that? What are the feelings or needs that are not getting met? What is it that you miss most about your relationship when it was better? 

These question hopefully will begin to point to a few core issues. You know you are getting close when you can capture most of what is wrong for you in a few phrases (ex:“I don’t feel cared about.” “I can’t ever please her.” “I don’t think you take my problems seriously.”)  If your list still has more than 3 things on it, consider revising. Are these things connected? Do what is the common thing that you think about when these things happen? How do you feel then these things happen? Are the answers similar?

Getting to the core of the issue is more of an art than a science. Your understanding of it will likely be fine-tuned as you go. If both partners can separately start to identify the core issues for them in the relationship, then you can start working on the core instead of fighting about the surface layer. 

A last tip: in thinking about how to phrase these to your partner, figure out a way to say it without starting with you don’t, you aren’t, etc. Start with yourself: I feel, I don’t like, I want.

-Jennifer 

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