If you want your partner to care about your feelings, seriously consider your point of view and be willing to make some changes, do these 7 things:
1. Get Into the Right Frame of Mind
A. Remind yourself:
- “You’ll be most powerful if you can temporarily let go of the need to get immediate change and accept the fact that sometimes it takes a while. You can afford to take your time.”
- “In the end, you can stand up for yourself if you need to. But there isn’t anything to be gained by jumping the gun. Keep your eye on the bigger goal. In the end, nobody’s going to pull a fast one on anybody here.”
B. On a scale of 1-10, how frustrated are you right now? (1 = Mild; 10 = Intense). If your rating is 3 or above, relax your body and slow your breathing (use Resistance Breathing). Do what it takes to get to a place inside where you feel calmer, more patient, and able to hear your partner out without interrupting or disputing her points. Find a way to feel temporarily okay, even though you don’t like the way things have been going. Wait until your frustration level is below 3, then talk to her.
(For help with this step, listen to Recording 2 at https://thecouplesclinic.com/dhrs-rec/.)
2. Don’t Fuel the Fire
- Don’t assume there’s something wrong with what she wants (or with her opinion or perspective). You might not like the way she’s talking to you, but that doesn’t mean that it’s okay to discount the needs, priorities, or opinions that are driving her complaint. You won’t get her to be less accusatory by being accusatory yourself. You can object to her opinion that you are wrong without turning the tables on her. There’s probably nothing wrong with either of your expectations.
- Don’t act like she shouldn’t be upset over something like this. If you do, you’ll be acting just like people who rarely get what they want and need from their partners. Your dismissiveness will fuel her fire.
- (For more information about Step 2, listen to Recording 4)
3. Look Past the Criticism
- Assume that beneath her criticism, she wants (or wanted) something that is a valid sort of thing for a person to want, or that she has an opinion that is arguably as valid as your own.
- Just because you might not want the same thing or have the same preferences or opinions doesn’t mean that hers are misguided or wrong.
- You can acknowledge that her preferences or opinions are valid without agreeing to go along with them. Your preferences and opinions are valid too, and if yours are different than hers, you have the right to expect her to be open to your perspective and work with you toward a middle ground.
4. Find the Understandable Part
Ask clarifying questions until you think you understand the legitimate want, need, or logic behind her complaint.
If you’re having a hard time because she’s talking angrily or harshly, don’t make a big deal of it, just try to redirect her. Say something like:
“I’m having a hard time listening, and I think you’re trying to say something important. Can we slow things down a bit?” (If she doesn’t slow down, withdraw from the conversation, saying something like, “It seems like you need to vent some anger but I can’t do this. I’m willing to talk, but not right now.”) For more detailed guidance, listen to Recording 7.
Let her know that her perspective has merit, even if yours is different. Say something like…
- “There’s nothing wrong with what you wanted (or with your perspective). You wanted it (or were thinking this way) because… [summarize the legitimate want, need or logic that is behind her behavior or opinion].”
6. Clarify and Respect Your Differences.
If you and your partner are not on the same page about the best way to handle this situation (or other situations like this), say something like:
- “It sounds like if it was up to you, this is what the decision would be (or what the expectations would be in similar situations… [elaborate…])..and your reason is…[elaborate…].”
- “If it was up to me, this is what the decision would be (or what the expectations would be in similar situations…[elaborate…], …and my reason is… [elaborate…].”
- “I’m thinking that we both have some valid points and we probably want the same things. Some of these things are probably just a little higher of a priority to me and some things are probably just a little higher of a priority to you. But we might not be that far apart.”
7. Offer to Work Together
Say something like:
- “How about if…[suggest a compromise that incorporates both of your preferences or viewpoints. Invite her to do the same].”
- “Give me some time to think about what you’re saying. You are making some good points. Let’s take some time to let this conversation sink in. How about if we come back and talk more later after we’ve had some time to think about it?”
If she is critical or dismissive of your perspective, don’t make a big deal of it. Just say something like,
- “Hey, I’m trying to be respectful of your perspective, and I need for you to try to respect mine. Obviously we have different opinions and it seems like we need to try to work together to find a solution that works for both of us as much as possible. How about if we stop fighting each other and try to work toward some sort of compromise?”
(If in the end, your partner insists on having her own way or that she is right and you are wrong, listen to Recording 6.)
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