9 Uncomfortable Things That Can Actually Make Your Relationship Stronger

While it’d be nice if things were always easy in relationships, the truth is you will have tough conversations with your partner, and go through less-than-ideal moments as a couple. And it won’t always be fun. But it’s important to keep in mind that, in many cases, these uncomfortable situations can actually make your relationship stronger.

This might include talking about sex, being honest about your pet peeves, and even chatting about money. “So many couples are scared to address difficult topics [like these] because they’re afraid they mean incompatibility or, worse yet, a breakup,” Dr. Adi Jaffe, PhD, a mental health expert and relationship counselor, tells Bustle. “But couples who can have these conversations in a constructive manner last longer, have better intimacy, and are less likely to develop a disdain for one another.”

And the same is true for potentially uncomfortable situations, such as your first argument, meeting each other’s parents, and so on. The best way to weather these moments as a couple is by being open and honest, and remaining aware that — in many ways — they can actually bring you closer together. Read on for a few ways to cope with these potentially uncomfortable situations, as well as why experts say they can make your relationship stronger.

1. Talking About Money

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Few people actually enjoy talking about money. And yet, for the health of your relationship, you’ll want to chat early and often about your financial goals, debts, how you’ll want to split bills, and so on.

After all, “money concerns continue to be one of the main reasons for divorce,” licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Catalina Lawsin, PhD, tells Bustle. Couples don’t always see eye-to-eye when it comes to spending or saving, and it can be a big source of tension.

And yet, you can not only prevent misunderstandings, but also make your relationship stronger, by being more honest with each other. Talking about money can be tough, but it’s necessary so that nobody feels frustrated or misunderstood.

2. Sharing Your Pet Peeves

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If your partner does something that truly annoys you, and you just can’t let it go, talking about it may be the best course of action.

“Most partners simply ignore these or end up bringing them up in a fight, which never really leads to a great outcome,” Dr. Jaffe says. You might find yourselves yelling about something really simple — like how to divvy up chores — because you’ve been letting your anger brew.

Instead, have these conversations before they boil over by being honest about what makes you uncomfortable or gives you anxiety, Dr. Jaffe says. And you might just notice that you feel closer to your partner as a result.

3. Talking About Sex

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“This topic is so commonly not addressed in relationships because people are embarrassed and/or ashamed to bring it up,” Dr. Jaffe says. “The thinking is either ‘we will figure it out,’ or the hope is that you’ll be compatible. But having this conversation explicitly can do wonders to a relationship.”

Once you sit down and talk about what you both do and don’t like in bed, you can have better sex. But even more importantly, you might find that having an “embarrassing” conversation like this one actually makes you feel closer together, Dr. Jaffe says.

4. Having Your First Argument

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

While it can be a bit jarring to have your first argument, this uncomfortable moment can actually mark the beginning of a deeper connection, licensed psychologist Heather Z. Lyons, PhD, tells Bustle.

“If one or both members of the couple are willing to rock the boat that means it’s important to them that they get the relationship right and make it a relationship that’s sustainable over the long-term,” Dr. Lyons says. So instead of feeling uncomfortable, try to see this argument for what it really is. And make it positive.

“Attempt to listen to each other non-defensively,” Dr. Lyons says. “Even if you don’t agree with your partner try to hear why the issue is important to them.” Doing so will set you on the right course for arguing in a healthy way, going forward.

5. Saying What’s On Your Mind

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Learning how to speak up in a relationship, and being honest about what you want, might feel weird at first. But it can make for a better connection.

“It can save so much time and energy to practice just saying exactly what it is that you want,” licensed psychotherapist Christine Scott-Hudson, MA, MFT, ATR, tells Bustle. And it also saves you both from having to guess what’s on your partner’s mind — and vice versa — which is a game nobody likes to play.

6. Meeting The Parents

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It’s common to feel uncomfortable when you meet your partner’s parents, or when they meet yours. There can be some tension, and maybe a little bit of awkwardness, especially if your family doesn’t always say the right thing. But nothing brings a couples closer together quite like weathering this milestone together.

“The first meeting can be uncomfortable,” Dr. Jess O’Reilly, Astroglide’s resident sexologist, tells Bustle. “But the discomfort associated with meeting new people and trying to make a positive impression can be an important part of growing as a couple.”

And this is especially true if you decide to keep things light, while also arming your partner with any need-to-know info before you go in. Is there one family member who always says the wrong thing? Let your partner know, Dr. O’Reilly says, so they won’t be thrown off.

7. Talking About Kids

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“So many people don’t talk about this and just assume their partner does or does not want kids or believes they know when their partner wants kids,” Jeannie Assimos, chief of advice at eharmony, tells Bustle. And yet, you’ll want to have a heart-to-heart in order to truly know what you both want.

It can be a tricky topic to bring up, especially if it’s one of the first serious conversations you have. But Assimos says it’s an important one to address, so that you can both be on the same page.

8. Defining Your Relationship

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Have you had the “defining the relationship” conversation? If not, you may feel a bit uncomfortable getting real about where you’re currently at. “But, this conversation is so important early on,” Assismos says. “It gives you both the opportunity to set goals with each other and truly define where you stand.” The fewer questions you have, the closer you’ll feel.

9. Talking About Your Insecurities

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

It can be tough to let your guard down and be honest about your insecurities. But even though it may feel weird, this is such an important thing to do when it comes to strengthening a relationship, Rose Skeeters, LPC, PN2, NCC, tells Bustle.

You might, for example, want to talk about any jealousies you have. “In making the decision to talk with your partner, you are showing them that you are on their team and that, when you have something on your mind that is bothering you, you can openly discuss it in a rational and calm way, rather than letting it fester and build resentment for a future fight,” Skeeters says.

And the same is true for other tough topics, including setting boundaries. As Skeeters says, “It is the discomfort that accompanies these conversations that strengthens a relationship as it allows your partner to see you for who you are and for you to see them for who they are in an honest and raw way.”

It’s not always easy to get through these moments as a couple, but once you come out the other side, there’s a good chance you’ll feel closer than ever.

 

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Tales of Rock – Love Me Plenty, Presley Pleads

I love that photo of Elvis.

Jan. 8 will be the 85th anniversary of the birth of Elvis Presley. Don’t fear that this milestone will be celebrated too quietly. Elvis 75 (a shorthand moniker for the event itself, as well as the title of a new greatest-hits collection) will bring an onslaught of commemorative festivities and products, like parties at Graceland, concerts with Elvis impersonators and a movie suggesting that Presley, who died on Aug. 16, 1977, has spent the last three decades in outer space. It will bring everything except realistic thoughts of what the uncontrollably self-destructive Elvis might have been like as a 75-year-old man.

Naturally, there are books. Lots and lots of books. Among the standouts — beyond a tell-all by the doctor who knows a lot about Presley’s death and a hagiography from the lifelong buddy who is fond of saying that America has had many presidents but only one King — is Alanna Nash’s long look at Elvis’s bizarre history with women. She has cleverly borrowed one of his most seductive song titles, “Baby, Let’s Play House.”

Since Ms. Nash’s book is studiously annotated and longer than many biographies of American presidents, there is reason to think she may have done some serious work here. Also, she approaches this subject with a running start. As the author of “The Colonel,” about the carny tricks of Presley’s famously Machiavellian manager, Col. Tom Parker, as well as “Elvis and the Memphis Mafia,” she sounds like someone well connected in the Presley world. So it is only a little bit worrisome to see her identified in the jacket copy for her new book as “the first journalist to see Elvis Presley in his casket.”

Elvis Presley and his wife, Priscilla, at their 1967 Las Vegas wedding. He had unusually close ties to his mother, Gladys. Credit Doc Pele/Stills, Retna

That whiff of morbid curiosity turns out to be determinative. So does the genesis of “Baby, Let’s Play House”: Ms. Nash acknowledges that she initially wrote a women-oriented article for Ladies’ Home Journal and then decided to expand it. Thus armed with what she all too aptly calls “an oral history of some of the women in Elvis’s life,” Ms. Nash began padding her story with three kinds of material: her own legitimate interviews (some with women still pining for Elvis 50 years after their fateful encounters), secondhand gossip (from self-serving memoirs and fan publications) and psychobabble. Cobbled together, these elements led her along Presley’s long, winding trail from babes to baby sitters as his life spiraled into sad decline.

“Baby, Let’s Play House” is abundantly illustrated with pictures of Presley with his girlfriends. And the pictures tell a powerful story. He worked his way through a lifetime’s worth of women who looked like his brown-haired, soulful-eyed mother, Gladys. At first they were girls next door. Then, though still from the same cookie cutter, they became ever more beautiful as Elvis’s star rose, to the point where he paired up with women almost as good-looking as he was.

Ms. Nash tells a long, repetitive and dirt-digging version of that dramatic tale. Her central premise, supplied by Peter O. Whitmer (“The Inner Elvis”) in his capacity as this book’s resident psychologist and buttressed by terms like “individuate,” “stuck grief,” “sexual dimorphism” and “estrogen-androgen balance,” is that Presley’s loss of a twin brother at birth set him on a lifelong search for companionship he could never truly find and that his extreme closeness to his mother left no room for other adult women.

Using details too tawdry for even the most voyeuristic fans, the author offers evidence of her subject’s arrested sexual development, physical insecurities and general predilection for the 14-year-old girls who struck him as unthreatening. Sometimes he really did throw pajama parties and teach girls how to put on eye makeup and style their hair.

Some details in “Baby, Let’s Play House” invoke the bottom-feeding biographical style of Albert Goldman. And Ms. Nash, in playing to the rubbernecking crowd, is not shy about using Mr. Goldman as a source. She also replays the memories of each girlfriend who believed herself to be Elvis’s true love (“I was the one who got away”), the creative stylings of too many ghostwriters and the fairy-tale tone of Priscilla Presley, Elvis’s wife. (“I thought I was living inside a dream. Except the dream had come true. I had come home with Elvis.”) Although Ms. Nash usually plays fair with attributions, she sometimes creates the misimpression that material borrowed from fan Web sites is a) current and b) her own.

But she has done her own dogged research too. And some of it is memorably succinct and tough. Consider this near haiku from Patti Parry, the lone female buddy in Elvis’s inner circle: “Nineteen-year-old truck driver becomes superstar and super stud, which he wasn’t.” Or this from Lamar Fike, one of his closest associates: “I’ll give you Elvis’s relationship with Priscilla in a nutshell. You create a statue. And then you get tired of looking at it.” Or from Sheila Ryan Caan, one of the rare girlfriends who felt free to tease Elvis about his sartorial style: “Does Cruella know you have her cape tonight?”

Regardless of how Ms. Nash accrued and assembled this material, she manages to collect all the madness, badness and sadness of the Elvis myth in one exhaustive and (let’s face it) embarrassingly tempting volume. Though she is sure to be excoriated for leaving the emperor unclothed, she also writes with admiration. And after presenting an endless-seeming parade of consorts (he had declined from young starlets to young bank tellers in his final months), Ms. Nash gets the last word on girl-chasing from Elvis at his weariest.

“Why the hell do you put up with her?” Billy Smith, Presley’s cousin and entourage member, tells Ms. Nash that he asked Elvis about Ginger Alden, the consort who was asleep in the next room when he died. Said the King, “I’m just getting too old and tired to train another one.”

 

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