Communication is key to escaping the abuse trap

Q: My girlfriend and I have put a deposit on a little house in town. We are planning to move into it together at the end of the month. If everything works out we are hoping that we can turn this relationship into a long-run, sure-thing bet, but both of us come from families loaded with tensions, anxieties and even some abuse.

We do not have any role models to follow to help us build a better relationship or to help us resolve tensions between ourselves.

We know communication within a relationship is a big item, but we were wondering if there is not more to it. We wouldn’t mind some suggestions if you have a moment to share your ideas with us.

A: I want you to know that you are not alone. A lot of young couples are faced with the same dilemma. They want to have better relationships than those they saw in their own families when they were growing up, but they are not sure how to go about it.

Fortunately, social service agencies and churches have picked up the cause and offer programs to help young couples. Check around. I am sure that you will find weekend seminars and workshops you can attend to get some ideas for you and your girlfriend to discuss.

Communication is important but you are right, it does not stop there. It depends first of all on the kind of communication.

You and your girlfriend can sit and praise each other until the swallows come back to Capistrano, and that is fun and somewhat useful for shining up your self-esteems, but it is not nearly as important for your relationship as is talking about who is taking out the garbage.

When your grandparents got married, Grandma went straight from the church to the kitchen, where she prepared meals, did the laundry and had children. Your grandfather headed out to the barn to fire up his Massey Ferguson tractor. They did not need to talk to each other. The rules were clear about who was to do what about the house and in the farmyard.

Things have changed since Grandma and Grandpa’s day. With both Mom and Dad pursuing careers and making money outside of the home, no one is sure who is supposed to be doing what chores around the house. The chores still have to be done. Meals have to be made, the house needs cleaning, and someone has to drive the kids to their hockey games.

If Mom and Dad do not talk about this and share in the responsibilities, one or the other of them is likely to get stuck trying to do all of it. It is unfair.

Tensions develop, followed by the usual arguments, and maybe even a call back to your own parents to find out who they would recommend for legal advice for the impending divorce.

You and your girlfriend must communicate to figure out which of you is going to do what around the house. You can meet regularly in almost formal meetings to talk about all of this, or you can text and call each other throughout the day. You can sit down with a glass of wine before supper and have a little chat.

It does not matter how you choose to talk to each other. It matters only that you do it.

Once you have figured this out, you can remind her that hers is a beauty that outshines that which Helen of Troy flashed to ignite various wars in the land of romance and Grecian mythology.

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