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Oh the stories I hear about how couples fight!  One person complains and the other responds with a complaint of their own and they keep going at each other. The original problem has escalated into something else and never gets resolved.

What does come out are statements such as:

“You never do the dishes” or “You always do that” or “that’s your fault.” In some cases, but certainly not all, they call each other names and try to bully them to stay in control. Statements of blame or highlighting every little thing their partner does wrong are common.

No one wants to be on the receiving end of comments like that – it makes them defensive and they retreat from their partner.  They disconnect. Their feelings get buried and the real issues do not come to the surface.

Every individual is unique and every couple is different. However, there are common themes as to why couples don’t say what they really feel to each other:

  • Fear of rejection, not being loved or breaking up
  • Not knowing how to handle conflict
  • Not in touch with their feelings
  • Loss of control

To be able to say what you really feel requires some thought before ‘reacting’ to your partner.

So how do we handle the situation when our partner does or says something that upsets us?

Think it through first:

  • It’s not often done intentionally
  • You do love each other
  • Did your partner’s actions trigger something within you?
  • Ask yourself – “what am I feeling right now?”
  • Keep digging deeper – “why does that bother me so much?”
  • Keeping peeling away at the layers of your emotion until you understand it so you can express it
  • Your partner can’t read your mind

When to have a conversation:

  • Wait until you have calmed down
  • Identify the specific action that upset you, why it upset you and what would make the situation better for you
  • Think about what your partner’s perspective might be
  • Be in a ‘loving’ frame of mind
  • Choose a time to talk that works for both of you (ask your partner if he/she can have a conversation with you)
  • Ensure there is privacy and no interruptions

What to say:

  • “I’d like to talk to you about something that upset me and I’d like to resolve it with you” or “I’d like to tell you how I feel and hear your perspective (a non-threatening statement of purpose).”
  • “When X didn’t happen, or when I heard you say X, I felt frustrated or hurt or angry.”
  • “My understanding was that we agreed to Y and that didn’t happen. What are your thoughts on that?”
  • “Where did this break down?”
  • “What would make it better for you?”
  • “This is what would make it better for me?”
  • “How do we prevent this from happening again?”
  • “Is there anything else you’d like to say about this?”
  • “Thanks for having this conversation with me.”
  • “I love you.”

What to do next:

  • If you need some solo time to process the discussion – take it – and let your partner know you just need a little bit of time to process (don’t let it take days).
  • Once that is done – Let it go.
  • Do something together, that you both like.