Claire is fuming. And glaring at the back of Dan’s head.

Dan is staring at the TV, thumb-punching the remote. Fuming.

What’s the big deal?

Claire and Dan probably couldn’t even tell you at this point.

They’re pretty sure it all started with Claire asking for a little more help around the house.

It ended with something that sounded more like, “You never do anything around here” and Dan mumbling something that sounded like “nag” under his breath.

Of course, by the time Claire and Dan arrived at this point Claire had weeks, maybe months, of resentment under her belt.

And Dan, sensing that a storm was brewing, had spent weeks, maybe months, laying low, hoping it would all blow over.

Not the best communication plan for either partner.

And the housework was still piling up.

Sound familiar?

Big trouble in a relationship usually starts with a million little missed opportunities to clear the air. Resentment and contempt don’t have to grow between you and your partner if you diligently nip them in the bud.

Communication keeps a thorny hedge from growing between you.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Lumps in the rug will trip you up:

Deal with issues as they arise to avoid emotional overwhelm.

It’s easy to sweep seemingly minor relationship issues under the rug.

After all, don’t sweat the small stuff, right? Wrong.

Any problem between you is a problem worth addressing.

Sure, at first, a few problems swept out of sight and mind doesn’t seem like a big deal.

But, after a while, those little annoyances get together under your relationship rug.

Soon you’re both stumbling unhappily.

Before you know it, you’re a mess of accumulated hurt feelings that is hard to identify and resolve.

Ostriches make poor relationship mentors:

Avoid leaving your relationship vulnerable or exposed to trouble.

Rather than bury your head in the sand, face your fear of conflict.

Conflict is not the enemy of your relationship.

Having no plan or skills to manage conflict is where couples have problems.

Don’t hide. Burying your feelings is a temporary fix between partners.

Emotions usually aren’t as well hidden as we think.

It’s best to become more emotionally aware.

Examine your tendency to avoid engaging your partner.

  • Why are you afraid to ask for help?
  • What does it mean if your spouse tells you no?
  • What makes you feel vulnerable or uneasy when a problem or issue arises?

Refusing to deal with problems head on just means they will sneak up on you from behind.

Ask questions first… Don’t assume and react:

Protect your connection by seeking answers and understanding through communication rather than launching an attack.

Irritating habits, little insensitivities, and small oversights deserve attention.

Attention—not criticism, assumptions, anger, or drama.

Discussion early on of small problems respects the relationship.

Delaying important conversations allows too much time for misinterpretation, assumption, and overreaction.

Stop the negative, one-sided dialogue in your head by asking your partner how he or she feels about the situation between you.

You may discover that he or she has a completely different perspective.

By communicating early, kindly, and honestly you may avoid an unnecessary battle.

Become proactive in creating your best life together.

Stay strong by learning new communication tools and renewed appreciation.

If you’re stuck in a pattern of avoidance and resentment, call for help before things between you are too far gone.

Consider the help of a couple’s counselor.

Learn how to say what needs to be said, listen empathically, and restore safe connection through productive conflict resolution.

Keep small issues in their place and grow bigger love instead.

By CounselingWise