Clearing The 'Mud' In Your Relationship Can Be Beneficial In The Long Run

Picture sitting across from your partner with a pristine glass pane between the two of you. You're at the beginning of your relationship when everything is rosy and romantic. You can see one another clearly through the glass and there's chemistry flowing freely between you two. You're in love and don't see the flaws in your significant other. 

Now, add a few months or even years to the relationship. Think of all the underlying irritations about your partner that you're now aware of. Annoying as they are, you haven't talked about them with your significant other. Visualize these unsaid things as mud that's been flung onto your side of the glass pane. How much mud can you see? Can you see your partner as clearly now? Your spouse is also smearing their side of the glass with mud — all the conversations they should've had with you but didn't. 

Before you know it, the clean sheet of glass is dirty with lots of brown stains that are also stopping you from viewing your partner more authentically, and this can be a sign that your relationship is in trouble. According to dating and relationship coach Starielle Hope, this muddied glass panel is the reason chemistry dies in the long run. "Attraction [in a long-term relationship] happens when energy is able to flow freely between two people. We call this chemistry," she explained in an Instagram reel. 

Why 'mud' can become problematic in relationships

You might think you're keeping the peace or you may even be afraid of conflict but, whatever the reason, avoiding talking about things that matter in a relationship has a way of coming back to hurt your union, especially in the long run. Tiny resentments brought on by things your significant other does — like leaving dirty dishes in the sink or not calling to tell you they're running late — no matter how small, have a way of building up. And resentment is dangerous in a relationship. As psychologist Susan Albers told Cleveland Clinic, "At first, you feel angry that you're not being treated fairly or that your needs are being ignored. Over time, this snowballs into disappointment, bitterness and hard feelings."

And it's not only chemistry that dies when mud gets in the way. You can start to lose empathy for your spouse, too. You may also experience trouble communicating, fueled by an inability to understand where your partner is coming from. "Each time, there's even some small conflict that goes unresolved, it's like throwing a bunch of mud at that pane of glass," explained Hope. 

The only way to gain back the chemistry is by clearing the bitterness (wiping off the mud), shared Hope. "You need to have the conversations that you haven't been having. You need to learn conflict resolution with your partner, even on a low-grade level," she added. 

How to clear 'mud'

It goes without saying that approaching previously uncharted territory when it comes to unsaid things has to be done with caution. "You may want professional help because this can get really sensitive," shared Hope. Unpacking years of resentment would require patience, empathy, kindness, and respect. Avoid blaming language, generalizing, criticizing, and name-calling, shared psychotherapist Daryl Appleton (via Good Housekeeping). 

Pull from time-tested advice by relationship experts on communication tools. Take turns letting one another speak, and wait your turn before you have to express how you're feeling. Be aware if your fighting style could be wrecking your relationship. If things get heated, take a break and go into separate rooms or even take a walk to calm down. There's no need to address all the resentment from the past in one go, either. 

A better method would be to do some self-reflection and jot down anything you feel is important to discuss with your significant other and find a time that works for both of you — when you're not tired, hungry, or sleepy — to sit down and have the conversation. Going in with a desire to forgive — especially past irritations that your partner can't go back and erase — is also important. Treat the present conversation as a method to clear the air between the two of you. The goal is to feel close to your partner. Finally, make a mental note to address tiny resentments (mud) when they happen going forward.