This may sound familiar: despite being in the same situation with your partner, frequently, the two of you perceive the situation in vastly different ways. Patience and taking the time to hear and understand your partner is key in working through misunderstandings that occur within relationships. It isn’t necessary to attempt to completely avoid misunderstanding as this becomes inevitable in life. It’s more about learning and getting better at managing and learning from these misfires when they occur.
Relationship expert John Gottman reminds us that practice makes good enough, so don’t make perfection the goal here. Your partner is not going to know and should not be expected to know what you are thinking and feeling. Mind-reading is not real within the realm of relationships; be prepared to ask what is bothering your partner or bring up what is bothering you without making any assumptions.
Memory can be a faulty thing therefore holding onto the notion that your perception of events is 100% accurate within contentious relationship situations is a fallacy. The need to be right really only results in your partner never being heard which is indicative of a preoccupation with yourself and an inability to meet your partner’s needs.
Changing one word can make the biggest difference within arguments with someone we love. Our initial reaction is often to toss the blame on that person through statements of “always” and “never.” The only thing this accomplishes is to kick up the other person’s anger as now they must defend against these critical accusations which turns into a harmful back and forth dance.
How to Stop the Cycle
Change the “you” statements to “I” statements to create space for talking about the way you are feeling instead. This can change the interaction from “You never help around the house” to “I feel underappreciated, can we talk about it?” Not only does this communicate your experience more clearly, it allows your loved one the opportunity to hear and validate your feelings rather than become defensive.
When arguments arise in a relationship it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not you against your partner. It’s the both of you against the problem at hand.
About the Author
Paige Keppler, LMFT works with couples and individual adults. She is available for day and weeknight appointments.