When people use the term “heartbreak,” they are often referencing the pain experienced when a relationship has ended. I challenge the notion that “heartbreak” is only felt during this delicate time but rather, is often unresolved emotional pain that is often repeatedly endured throughout the course of nearly all relationships – to varying degrees.
For most women, the amount of trust that they have in their partner directly correlates with the amount of love they feel towards them and ultimately, their level of confidence in the sustainability of that relationship. Unfortunately for many women, the level of trust that we have in our partner is often being challenged or compromised by their behaviors and with each incidence of distrust, a little piece of our heart will break.
Imagine for a moment that inside of you resides a large paper heart. This heart symbolizes the love that we hold for our partner. Every time that your partner exhibits a behavior that you are not in agreement with: texts his ex-lover or another woman, pulls an all-nighter with the guys and doesn’t answer your phone calls, deletes messages or phone calls from his phone, says something hurtful, gets caught with a very unflattering internet browsing history that he is not smart enough to clear, or is caught lying or omitting information to avoid a confrontation in a compromising situation – a piece of this paper heart is ripped away. What is more troublesome than uncovering that these indiscretions exist, is the fact that many of us are too afraid to confront our partner about them. If we continue to internalize every heartbreak, all of the pain, resentment and anger associated with not being able to trust the person that we are with, it will only be an amount of time before there is nothing left of that paper heart. What happens then?
We have to learn to effectively communicate with our partner regarding our personal boundaries. Being able to openly discuss what you need from your partner in order to feel loved and to foster or restore trust, is equally as important. Moreover, we have to learn ‘how’ to have these conversations and ‘when’ to have them.
Due to the fact that we often have a lot of emotion built up over various issues that we held inside for far too long, we need to be reminded that we cannot allow our emotions to overpower our ability to communicate our needs in an effective way. Not every interaction is going to be calm and positive and there will be times when you or your partner will get upset. In those moments, it is up to you to remember to consciously take a step back from your emotions. Remind yourself, “I am really upset in this moment. I must not allow my emotions to take over and I shouldn’t address anything until I am feeling more centered and grounded.” It is okay to take a time out and make a plan to finish the conversation at a different time, if you find that you or your partner are not ready to address something in the heat of that moment. Establish communication guidelines and rules with your partner prior to having a conversation, so that you can both have a shared understanding of what is acceptable and not acceptable when you are speaking to one another about a serious issue. Your ultimate goal is to resist your impulses and instinct to aggressively react when you become angry, hurt, jealous or sad – so that you can communicate your needs in a way that is not attacking and does not cause your partner to go on the defensive. As a result, your partner be more receptive to your words, and more likely to help you get your needs met. It is okay to calmly discuss your feelings and how you feel hurt or betrayed – but if you want your partner to truly hear you, you can’t be emotionally out of control.
Learning to effectively communicate with your partner is a process. There isn’t a ‘one-size fits all’ model that will work for everyone. But I can promise you that the more often you both address your needs and ritualize discussions about what is working and develop plans to improve the quality of your relationship, the easier it will be for your paper heart to restore itself. It will always have scars and imperfections – but those are there to serve as a reminder to you that you have a choice in how you allow yourself to be treated in a relationship, and you have the power to communicate with your partner and change the course of your relationship.