What You Need to Know to Overcome Upsetting Communication

No matter how great a relationship starts, any couple can get stuck in some unhappy pattern. Despite their best intentions, at moments partners will fall out of synch or push each other’s buttons. Not knowing how to repair such moments leads to increasing distress, discomfort, or dissatisfaction. Over time, this can result in some recurrent pattern of upset communication.

This will look differently depending on the personalities involved. Some people pursue and attack, while others defend or withdraw. Some blow up, others shut down. It is sad to consider how many couples start with such great love and hope, only to end up unnecessarily suffering some form of disconnection or reactivity.

This is unnecessary, because at the root of it, most partners are misinterpreting one another. What makes them upset is what they fear is happening, and how they react to each other, when each believes their fear is true. Fortunately, you can clear up these misinterpretations, fears, and repair the upsets they cause — if you know some simple rules for communicating core feelings.

Regardless of the form of upset, you can get unstuck by finding out these four things:

  1. In your heart of hearts, at your core, what is it that is really upsetting you?
  2. What core feelings underlie your partner’s behavior (that upsets you)?
  3. At the core of it all, what do you actually need to feel with your partner?
  4. And what does your partner actually need to feel in their core about you?

For most couples, no matter how much emotional damage has been done, the answers to these four questions are remarkably simple. It’s just that nobody is able to think clearly enough to understand what is really going on in each other at the core level. But once you do understand how core feelings and needs operate, it is amazing how you can heal longstanding emotional wounds in a way that leads to falling in love all over again.

In our book, Five-Minute Relationship Repair, you discover what is really at the root of relationship upsets. You learn how to successfully express and address the core needs that make us all feel secure, accepted and connected with each other. That is what makes love thrive over time and builds a solid foundation for a happy shared life together.

What intimate partners need to feel with one another is safe and secure. Certain core needs must feel met, like feeling accepted for who we are and feeling we come first in each other’s lives. If any of these human needs seem out of whack, survival alarms in our primitive brains will start ringing. This causes communication breakdowns. We fall into primitive states of fight, flight or freeze. Our higher brains get hijacked. And we will not understand how a discussion of “the right way to load the dishwasher” turned into such a big fight.

But it’s not about the dishwasher at all. It’s about your ability to feel accepted or important! To feel like your needs matter to the other person. To feel like you are already good enough just the way you are. These are universal human core needs when you are with your intimate partner. But these are rarely discussed or seen by couples. So underlying emotional distress mounts.

Without knowing this vital information and resolving the underlying emotional distress, couples just keep bickering over small stuff, or getting frustrated and lashing out. Certain people eventually blow up as things escalate, where even small stuff sets off big fights. Others react by withdrawing, avoiding, or shutting down. Many of us end up walking on eggshells. Or simply walking out.

Whatever the pattern of reactivity becomes, one thing is for sure. A couple’s love life will be damaged over time by the drama of blame, trying to be right, and finger-pointing that usually accompanies reactive communication. And sadly, nobody realizes what they are actually upset about. This is because they don’t know how to reach out and express their core needs to each other. Nobody knows the real answers to the four vital questions above. If they did, things could be resolved quickly, as we repeatedly witness when we help couples heal old wounds and build a solid foundation of trust for resolving differences.

What we have found in working with thousands of couples is the following. No matter how bad the arguing gets, no matter how high the walls have become, and no matter how upset or judgmental partners get about each other, ironically, each person is, in their own best way, trying to reach out for something important to make the relationship better. It’s just that they don’t really understand each other. Each keeps misinterpreting the other’s behavior. They cannot see what really needs to be addressed at the core level.

Without knowing how to truly discuss and resolve their core needs (most people don’t even know what those are) partners eventually get stuck in an unhappy stalemate. Many times, someone finally gives up and leaves. Sadly, it nobody ever realizes what the real needs were, and how easy they are to meet once you know what they are.

Would you like to know how to overcome the emotional reactive cycles that can ruin a relationship? Would you like to know how to keep love alive and thriving, where shared happiness increases with time instead of fading away under the pressure of unresolved upsets and stuckness?

Couples typically get mired in discussing things like differences around money, childrearing, sex, housekeeping, spending time together, in-laws, the importance of work, and so forth. But these content issues are not what sets off the underlying emotional reactions. That is happening on an entirely different level. It’s not about the dishwasher being loaded correctly. It’s about whether the core emotional needs of feeling important and accepted are being met by one another. Or whether core fears of abandonment or rejection have been triggered and nobody is doing anything to clear that up.

Remarkably, of the thousands of couples we’ve worked with, nobody knew what they were actually reacting to. They had no real idea what the emotional core needs were at the root of their distress. Nor did they realize what was underneath their partner’s reactions. Nobody knew the answers to the four basic questions above. So they had no way to resolve the underlying emotional upsets that blocked them from solving their content issues.

We put together an educational process in our book Five-Minute Relationship Repair to give you a clear understanding of what is under the struggles all couples fall pray to. We show you how to quickly resolve these difficulties with the communication practices we have time-tested and proven with the thousands of couples we have helped.

With the information and tools you will get from our book, you can:

  • Become an expert on what are the underlying causes of distress and disconnection in your relationship.
  • Know what the key solutions are (which never dawned on you) that will resolve the underlying sources of conflict, walking on eggshells and building walls between you.
  • Understand how to express your feelings and needs in a transparent way that will open your partner’s heart (rather than cause them to be defensive or shut down).
  • Overcome the reactive cycle that leads to blame, criticism, distancing and other negative behaviors and replace it with acceptance, connection and empathy.
  • Know how to promote good feelings, deeply heal all wounds, and quickly resolve triggering episodes in ways that bring you closer together.
  • Rewire each other’s brains in ways that make you feel more secure as a team, safe to talk about anything, and able to share more happiness than you ever dreamed possible.

We have taught these tools to thousands, and you can benefit from them now. Whether you are part of a couple that is suffering or are single and wanting to know how to succeed in your next relationship, these tools can make a positive difference in your life.