Subtle issues are definitely present in your relationship if conflicts happen over small issues and it gets blown out of proportion.
That’s because there’s a lot more going on underneath the cause of conflict. These subtle issues are a reflection of the relationship and as well as some values each of you have about the relationship.
Four of these subtle issues are:
• Trust & Commitment
I’m going to help you discover that these issues are not to be taken at face value because they touch our deepest fears and needs for connection if they’re affecting our relationship.
When you treat these subtle issues and take them seriously, they will not only help defend your relationship, they’ll also enhance your intimacy.
The Subtle Issues of Caring
If you get the feeling that your partner does not care about you, it hurts. These subtle signs show themselves when you feel like your partner doesn’t care or love you. This issue is caused by an awareness that your emotional needs aren’t important to your partner.
Steps to Take:
1. When you’re upset and feeling like your partner doesn’t care about you, ask yourself what it is you long for.
2. Think about why this way of care is important to you and where you may have internalized that message. What is the meaning your mind creates when you don’t feel cared about in this way? What is the meaning your mind creates when you do feel cared about in this way?
3. Share with your partner what you want/need in a positive and actionable way that gives your partner a recipe to be successful at winning your heart.
4. Share the story behind why this gesture or version of care is important.
6. Check in with your partner to see if they understand.
7. Switch into the listener role and let your partner express themself.
8. Work with your partner to create a new plan that works for both of you.
The Subtle Issues of Not Feeling Seen or Recognized
Hidden issues of recognition have less to do with feeling loved and more to do with feeling valued for the contribution you’re making to the relationship, as well as who you are as a person. It’s about feeling seen.
Most of the time, these hidden issues pop up when one partner feels as though the other isn’t proud of them for their accomplishments or doesn’t acknowledge the effort or hard work they’re doing with their extracurricular activities, kids, or the relationship.
When partners of all genders work hard to provide for their family, take care of the home and children, work hard at their job, or sustain and nurture a connection with their partner, and it goes unrecognized and unappreciated by their partner, it’s fairly likely that that partner will become burnt out and feel unseen.
It’s important to make sure that you are expressing your gratitude and appreciation to your partner for the things they do for you, your relationship, your home, and for themselves. Also sharing what you admire about your partner or what you’re proud of them for doing is a great way to help them feel seen and loved.
If you don’t feel that your partner is expressing this, it’s important to be open and honest about your longing for more appreciation and admiration in the relationship. Talk about how it makes you feel closer to your partner.
Strong and stable relationships are often a result of both partners creating a culture of appreciation, admiration, and affection in their relationship.
The Subtle Issues of Commitment & Trust
Hidden issues of commitment and trust occur when there is a concern about the security of the relationship. The driving fears of being left and wondering if the other person will leave drives these conflicts.
Commitment is about being emotionally invested in the future of the relationship. This commitment can be demonstrated by working through conflicts together, supporting your partner in tough times, cherishing them (see above), and being there for them. And if they do this for you, then you are in a win-win relationship.
The problem is sometimes arguments about the issue of commitment get lost in the content of the conflict.
Subtle Issues of Influence (Power Struggles)
Power struggles can result over anything in a relationship: finances, parenting strategies, sex, accepting each other’s input, compromising.
A research study on 815 dual-career couples discovered that how power was shared in the relationship impacted each individual’s wellbeing, as well as the health of the relationship.1 The findings concluded that marriages based on equality (partners sharing power, accepting influence, and compromising) had higher relationship satisfaction, less depression, and increased intimacy for both partners.
In comparison, unequal sharing of power leads to more issues. For the more powerful partner this led to less relationship satisfaction and intimacy. For the partner with less influence, it leads to low self-esteem, depression, and hostility toward the more powerful partner.
When partners act as a team and honor each other’s needs, feelings, and decisions, they are more likely to have a better relationship. They are less likely to blame each other because they more readily accept responsibility and they also make decisions that are in the best interest of both partners, not just one.
Steps to Take
Step 1: Set aside time to talk
Step 2: Pick a speaker and listener following the ATTUNE model below. Focus on getting to a point where each partner can say “I can understand your perspective.”
These ATTUNE skills, as outlined by Dr. John Gottman, are helpful for conflict and emotional connection-building conversations.2
• A = Awareness: Help your partner see your side
• T = Tolerance: Tolerate both views
• T = Transforming criticisms into wishes
• U = Understanding: this must follow advice in a relationship
• N = Nondefensive listening: listen without getting defensive
• E = Empathy: Connect with their feelings, don’t try and fix them.
Couples need to work on understanding each other’s subtle issues and feelings so that they can work together to learn how to care for these issues. By doing this, I believe you can become better at understanding each other, more appreciative and express compassion.