How Speaking Up Can Strengthen Your Relationship

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We knew it wouldn’t be long before more details leaked about Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow’s decision to “consciously uncouple” but we were surprised at the source: Martin himself, who recently revealed on a British radio program that he blames himself for the breakup. [Tweet this fact!] According to Martin, “you can be with someone very wonderful, but because of your own issues, you cannot let that be celebrated in the right way.”

He further alluded to going through a tough time a few years ago, explaining that he “[couldn’t] enjoy the great things around me.” While we don’t know the specifics of what Martin was dealing with, experts agree that personal stressors definitely have the potential to bring down a relationship—especially if have an “everything’s fine” attitude when things are anything but.

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“Often, people who are feeling pained and stressed in other parts of their life will retract. They may do this because they don’t want to bring their partner into the situation, but by not sharing how they feel, they may come off as preoccupied or uninterested in the relationship,” says Belisa Vranich, a clinical psychologist and author of He’s Got Potential.

Sharing what’s on your mind—even if it’s just that you’ve been feeling down recently and aren’t sure why—sounds simple, but it’s the first step in protecting your bond. “Even if he can’t do anything to fix the situation, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth discussing,” says Julie Hanks, a couples therapist and executive director of Wasatch Family Therapy in Salt Lake City. “We all need to be comforted when we’re emotionally distressed, upset, or burdened.”

If you’re struggling with opening up, experts agree that seeking help from a therapist or counselor—either on your own or with each other—can teach you how to share the vulnerable sides of yourselves. “People often emotionally hold back in a relationship to protect themselves from being hurt, and this pattern can be tough to break on your own,” says Hanks. A third voice, in the form of a therapist, can help you troubleshoot your tough spots and emerge even stronger on the other side.

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