This blog post will likely strike a nerve in a few people who read it, but it is not being written to address anyone in particular.  I am writing this to address a large problem that I frequently see in my personal and professional life.

When you enter into a relationship- friendship or partnership- with another person, there are a lot of normal adjustments and concessions that have to be made on each party’s side if the relationship is to last for any extended period of time.  If one or both parties are not willing to make the necessary adjustments or concessions, the relationship will end before it really gets started.  Additionally, if only one of the parties is making all of the changes in order to force the relationship to work, that person is in for a long and difficult ride.    

Any new relationship will come with issues that must be adequately addressed, such as how to handle each party’s individual friends, which party is responsible for what functions in the relationship, annoying habits of each party, etc.  The biggest and most important underlying issue is COMMUNICATION.  If the two parties do not work on their communication, any small issue, that is not adequately addressed when it occurs, will blow up into a much bigger issue over time. 

A good deal of couples move through the initial dating phase and into partership or marriage without ever working on their communication skills.  Once they are sharing a home, they discover a lot of small annoying issues that can build up on each other quickly.  If they address the true issue and seek help with their communication, the relationship can evolve and become a wonderful life-long partnership. 

However, the more common solution that couples turn to in order to “address” their relationship issues, is to have a baby.  Couples who choose to have a child to “fix” their relationship are shocked when the baby actually adds more stress to the relationship and often see the marriage or relationship end fairly quickly.  These couples tend to blame the child for causing the issues between them.  The parents believe that the child, an innocent being who is trying to learn how to grow and become a productive citizen, is the biggest problem that they have.  The parents fight over how to raise the child, what to allow the child to do or not do, how to discipline the child, what to feed the child, when the child should go to sleep or wake up, when the child should be held or not held, etc.  When they can not communicate adequately with each other, these issues, which can be easily mediated, can become insurmountable. 

However, once you peal back the layers of the couple’s relationship, you discover that the child and child-related issues are NOT the problem.  The problem is some thing(s) that occurred before the child was ever born and never adequately addressed by the couple or an issue completely external to the child that has never been addressed.  Unfortunately, there are children who are abused, physically and emotionally, as a result of this parental turmoil and frustration. 

This can and must be stopped!

First, DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF!  When children are toddler and preschool age, they begin to want to exert their independence.  LET THEM to the extent that you can without allowing the child to be harmed.  In other words, if the child wants to pour the dirt into the flower pot- yes, it may make a mess and that is OK- let them do it.  If they do make a mess, use that opportunity to teach them how to clean up messes.  If the child wants to get their own food out of the pantry or refrigerator, let them!  If the child wants to choose which outfit to wear, even if it doesn’t match, let them!  If the child wants to put the DVD in the DVD player and press the play button, let them!  How else are they supposed to learn how to function in our world??  Allowing the child as much independence as is safe will go a long way towards teaching them valuable lessons that they will use for the rest of their lives (not to mention that it will dramatically cut down on the temper tantrums and parental stress!!).

Secondly, deal with the real issues in your relationship.  The child is NOT the real issue and it is not the child’s fault that you and your partner can not see eye to eye on child related issues.  It is YOUR FAULT!  Your real issues are between you and your partner and it will all boil down to communication and your lack there of.  Deal with it!  Deal with it one on one, if possible, and if not, involve a relationship counselor to assist you.  Many relationships can be saved, if the parties ask for help and accept that they need help in working on their issues.  There is NO SHAME in asking for help or in seeking counseling.  It is actually a huge strength!

If you do not address your relationship issues and if you continue to stress out about small things that do not really matter in the scheme of the world, you will drive yourself crazy!  YOU will drive YOURSELF crazy and it will be NO ONE’S FAULT BUT YOUR OWN!!!  You control the decisions you make and how you allow external issues to affect you.  Decide today that small issues that do not harm you or someone else, do not matter.  Decide today to address your communication skills with your partner and improve your relationship.  You deserve to be happy and you can be, if YOU work on YOU!  🙂

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