Top tips for improving your relationship
Every couple has a style they use when communicating. They also have a style they use when arguing. This style can often lead to a downward spiral of conflict and more conflict.
There are many ways in which you can to break your pattern but the following two steps are easy to remember and most useful.
1. Stop and evaluate your expectations
No one can deny that they have expectations. When you feel triggered by your partner, what are you expecting? They are acting out of line with what you are expecting which is causing you to be triggered.
Are you aware of what you need? Imagine this scenario. You come home after a long day of work and, as you walk through the door, your partner and kids come running towards you. You feel irritated as you brush your partner off and go to another room. Your partner claims to feel dismissed which annoys you more.
You tell your partner to stop following you and that they are annoying. The argument starts.
Evaluation of expectation:
Go back to when you arrived at home. What you might have needed (but didn’t think of) is time to yourself. You might have been really busy all day and had to stand on the train on your way home.
Your expectation was that you would arrive home, put down your bag and wash your face and hands while catching a breath. Then you would enter the kitchen where your family would be meeting you.
No one can read your mind. They don’t know what you are feeling or thinking. Expecting them to do so is unrealistic and sets you up for failure.
Tell your partner what you need without being critical. Try to stick to language about how you feel or what you need, rather than how they didn’t give you what you needed and how they are responsible for your reaction. Accusing your partner will only make them defensive and lead to further conflict.
Example of language to use:
"I appreciate that you are looking forward to seeing me when I come home. But, often, I just need a few minutes to myself after a really busy day. This will help me to leave the workday behind and be more present with you. I look forward to seeing you too."
2. Stop making interpretations based on your partner’s behaviour
These are the stories we tell ourselves about the event. If they are positive, then it won’t really lead to conflict. But, if these stories are negative, you might have a problem.
In the example given, the person might have the following interpretations about their partner and family:
- "They must think I do nothing at work all day."
- "They must really be needy if they can’t even go a minute without me after I walk through the door."
- "Here they are again, to bombard me the moment I walk through the door. I bet they will now ask me about every single detail of my workday."
In most cases, the interpretations are distorted and based on fantasy or past experience. If you are unsure of the validity of your interpretations, ask your partner questions but always try to give them the benefit of doubt.
You could say:
"When I arrive at home and you all run toward me, I feel that no one knows how tired and am and that I need a few minutes to myself. I know you will have a good reason for it, but I’m so tired that I struggle to see it. Would you mind sharing with me how you experience it?"
Your partner is likely to say something like: "The kids are just really happy when they hear you turn the key in the door" or "I didn’t realise you are so tired. I look forward to seeing you and want to you arrive home and feel loved. I didn’t realise that it makes you feel the opposite."
If there are only two changes you make to start with, in an attempt to improve your relationship, these would be my top two.
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