Any Problem You Can’t Discuss In Your Relationship…

This writing is now available as a podcast episode!

Any problem you can’t discuss in your relationship is two problems. Or more.

  1. The problem itself.
  2. The problem of not being able to discuss it.

Lately, the topic of relationships black holes has come up in several conversations. I take that as a sign I need to write and think about it.

Let’s say you have a problem. You talk about it, and it doesn’t work, so you put it away, and avoid talking about it again. (1)

Now, a new problem pops up, and you start to talk about it. Unfortunately, too late, you realize that it’s related, and the topic comes back to THAT WHICH WE DON’T DISCUSS. You put it away, too. This problem has just become a part of the relationship black hole. There will be multiple problems like this. (2)

Relationship Black Holes. 

Shows four concentric circles. The inner is labeled "original problem." 

The next is labeled "Related, but ultimate separate topics from the PROBLEM."

The third is labeled "Topics that touch on topics related to the PROBLEM."

The outermost ring is labeled "Completely unrelated topics that just piss you off and trigger your resentment."

Unfortunately, the nature of a black hole is to suck things in. Now, even a problem that wasn’t related to the first problem, but is related to the related problem is now a potential powder keg. Luckily, by this point, you’ve gotten more savvy, and you avoid talking about it, just put it away as soon as you see it. (3)

And, then, the final stage, when the black hole takes over your whole relationship. This is when anything that pisses you off, causes resentment, or makes you feel sad brings you right back to the original problem, because it’s been festering so long. (4).

Let’s look at this in an example:

You forgot my birthday. It’s a BIG deal to me, and I get upset. You are intractable, and I feel like you just don’t understand. We have a huge blow-up. No one gets what they want, no resolution is found, and it just gets put away. (1)

Unfortunately, two weeks later your bestie throws a surprise party for their partner, which sets us off again. That’s when we realize that every mention of birthdays will be an issue. We pack it away, dry our angry tears and go to the party with our friends. It’s not brought up again. (2)

A few months later, when a sort of truce on birthdays has been created by just not talking about them or acknowledging the issue at all, I see an over-the-top romantic video online for an anniversary. I send it to you, suggesting that MAYBE you won’t forget our anniversary, too. It’s only three months away. Now every celebration of love, affection, and appreciation is a part of the relationship black hole. (3)

The relationship goes on, limping along, until a few weeks before my next birthday, when you forget to take out the trash, and it becomes, “You never remember anything that makes me happy! That’s why you forget my birthday!”

Now, everything that upsets me or pisses me off brings up that core hurt (and possibly others) because it’s never been resolved, and because I’ve gone over it again and again in my mind, so I’m familiar with the pain, and can access it instantly. (4)

So, would you rather have one problem to talk about or two problems that multiply exponentially?