Building Bridges

Issue # 6 of 43 

David LeClaire
By: David LeClaire

Avoid Installing Landmines!

Imagine a bridge that survives an earthquake but suffers some minor damage that's hard to spot. Years go by and everyone just assumes the bridge is strong and safe. Then one day, during a blustery, windy afternoon, it begins to sway. Weakened from its long since forgotten damage, it collapses as you're crossing.

Our relationships are really very similar to this hypothetical bridge. Many times we just want to move on and forget the conflict we just had with our partner. Why get into it again? Why bring it up?

If you don't, the seemingly tiny fractures add to the other tiny fractures, slowly but surely weakening our bridge. The bridge will eventually collapse and we'll be looking across the vast emptiness, seeing our partner on the other side of this chasm, and no longer know how to reach them.

Eventually discussing the situation that brought on the conflict is always necessary. At least one of the two of you may be hesitant to open this can of worms again. But it must be done. Just wait until the smoldering fire is extinguished and you're both quite calm and sane again.

Men, after calming down, often are more ready to give it up and get past it. Usually they have decided the whole thing was no big deal, and some will even accept full responsibility for being in the wrong - even when they don't really feel they were wrong or acted inappropriately, just so their partner will drop the issue. They may take the blame, say they're sorry, and try to avoid talking about the issue any further because they don't want it to start all over again. If this happens, beware - you are stopping short of the finish line.

You do not want subjects to be off limits and to be avoided in the future out of fear of possible conflict, and the only way subjects can remain safe is by talking about them again. This is made more possible by the apologies and having a reasonable conversation about how you handled the situation as a couple.

Often a woman still needs or wants to talk about what happened, even if her partner is ready to accept the responsibility or admit to being at fault. When this is the case, she doesn't just want to be right, she wants to reconnect and relate to her partner, and needs to talk it through. She wants to know they understand each other, not just that he's sorry.

It's important for the couple to talk about the issue again, without anger and hostility, or they will have installed a land mine, leading to the avoidance of discussing important subjects in the future. This is simply the process many women need before they can emotionally move on. Becoming calm often just isn't quite enough for most women - it is often essential for many women to re-establish intimacy.

Sometimes one partner refuses to apologize because they believe they were and always will be right. So why apologize, why take the responsibility? Chances are it is at those times that a person is probably over-looking how something could have been done or said differently. Regardless of how perfect the rationalization appears, the situation probably could have been handled with more maturity, respect, and appreciation for his/her partner's perspective. In the recognition of this, even when you feel in your heart that you're right and there's no need to back down or apologize, cease your pointless attempt at being right. It only digs the hole deeper.

Arguing further or trying to convince your partner of your position won't get you what you really want, which is to be enjoying your lives together. Remember, this is your friend, your lover, and your partner for life.

All of us are occasionally impatient, push our partner's buttons, or are challenging to live with. We may step over the line, go too far, or take our partner for granted. Regardless of your gender, age, or good intentions, part of being human means to error occasionally. When feeling angry or hurt, you will benefit by learning to accept and forgive the little mistakes. When your partner genuinely takes some of the responsibility, give him/her a break. All of us are only human, and will occasionally screw up.

Don't expect 100% perfection. Your partner's imperfections will show up over time. If you are loved and treated with respect and appreciation, forgive them. If you don't, and instead hold onto the hurt you feel for sympathy, ammunition, or for the simple fact that you don't know how to let go of it, then you'll both pay the price. This eats away at your enjoyment of the experience of living, and extends the length of time that you are both unhappy as well.

So the next time you have a spat, you ruffle each other's feathers, one of you steps over the line, goes too far, pushes the others buttons, steps on toes, rubs their partner the wrong way, pours salt in the wound, or sticks the knife in and turns it - try your best to handle the situation in a manner you can be proud of later. Don't battle it out. Instead, take a breather, get your act back together, and regain a more calm perspective. Return to talk about it, with civility and a genuine sense of mutual respect. Seek understanding instead of consensus.

Look for ways to handle the situation differently next time. And then move on. Hug each other. Hold one another tightly and don't talk for a few moments. Close your eyes and remember when you first met. Reconnect with each other, and begin moving on emotionally together!

David LeClaire has spent much of his time teaching at community college and private school, and lead communications training for Fortune 500 companies. Now a popular and active Seattle area sommelier, this graduate of Central Michigan University led seminars for a wide variety of organizations. LeClaire is the author of "Bridges To A Passionate Partnership." He can be reached at

Building Bridges Table of Contents

Text © 1998, David LeClaire. Part of the original Sideroad.
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