One of the most common communication mistakes I see people make in relationships is that they only discuss hot button issues in the heat of the moment.
Let’s say a common issue of contention between you and your partner is that you don’t feel like he or she helps out enough around the house. (And I hear this complaint from both men and women, so this is not a gender specific issue!)
Perhaps this problem comes up again and again and each time it turns into an argument and is never resolved. So you keep your frustration to yourself much of the time and resentments start to grow. Maybe you grumble to yourself when you find yourself cleaning up a mess that your partner could have cleaned, but didn’t. Maybe you make a snide comment that is either ignored by your partner – or hurts their feelings, yet they don’t respond – or they respond with their own snide comment.
And then one day you are tired or you are having a particularly bad day, and you find the sink full of dirty dishes or the kids running wild or something isn’t done that you asked your partner to do – AND YOU SNAP!
Maybe you use words like
“YOU NEVER…” or “YOU ALWAYS…” or “I’M SO SICK OF THIS!”
And your partner becomes defensive and responds with his or her own angry words, maybe even turning blame back on you. Once again, the argument escalates but nothing gets resolved.
Why do the same arguments keep coming up with no resolution or compromise?
Because no one wants to Rock the Boat when things are going smoothly - and so the only time we ever discuss a problem is when we are ANGRY!
But here’s the thing:
We can express ourselves much more effectively and our concerns can be heard by our loved ones when emotions are not SKY HIGH.
When we are feeling calm and more connected to our partner, we are able to use assertive rather than aggressive language. When we are able to be more diplomatic with our concerns and wrap it in some love and understanding, our partner is more likely to be able to “hear” our message.
Perhaps pick a time when life is a little calmer - maybe a weekend or in the evening after the kids are in bed. Tell your partner that you would like to talk to them about something that has been on your mind. Remind them that you love them and appreciate all that they do for you and/or for the family.
Then state your concern:
“Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one taking care of the household chores or managing the kids, and I would really like more help and to feel like we are a team.”
It’s always best to ask for specific behavior, such as, “I would really appreciate it if you would give the kids their baths at night” or “It would help so much if you would clean up the kitchen after you cook.”
Your partner may still become defensive, but if you can remain calm and respectful and continue to speak in a way that communicates that you want to resolve this issue in a loving way, then your partner is less likely to feel blamed and more likely to be open to your concern and interested in reaching a compromise.
So try bringing up your concerns when there isn’t already a storm brewing. So much more can be accomplished when the Sea is Calm.
-Valerie Allen, MEd, LPCC
If you want to talk about improving communication in your relationship, contact me at email@example.com or 513-317-8113.