Article by Jennifer Chappell Marsh
How many times have you asked your partner to be affectionate, stop nagging or put the toothpaste cap on securely? When our requests get blown off, we are often left with feelings of frustration that leave us feeling disconnected from our significant other. Before you jump to the conclusion that your partner doesn’t care, or is just plain lazy – give the following techniques a try:
- Describe the Situation Objectively – We want to help the people we love. However, when we are blamed for our loved one’s difficulties it is natural to defend ourselves (which often snowballs into an argument). So, how do you get around the defensive hurdle so your needs are heard? Present the situation in an objective way. This means describing the situation, without using the word “you.” Take the toothpaste example: “You never put the cap on the toothpaste” vs. “When the toothpaste cap is off, it leaks on the sink” conveys very different messages. It may seem like a silly tweak in grammar, but using objective statements will make a big difference to the ears of your partner.
- Identify the Feeling – The next step is to identify the feeling that comes up when this situation happens. When our requests are ignored, we are often left with feelings of frustration. For requests to pack a punch, we have to dig deep and identify the softer (or the primary) feeling underneath frustration. Primary emotions include fear, sadness, anger or shame. For example, “When I don’t receive regular affection, I feel scared like maybe I’m not desirable.”
- Get to the Heart of the Matter – We all have the core needs of wanting to feel important and that we matter to our partners. To identify your need, fill in the following sentence: If my partner responded to my request, I would feel like I ________________ to him/her.
- Talk It Out – Now that you’ve identified what you need and the primary emotions driving those needs, it’s time to put it all together. Sit down with your partner when you are both calm. Start with describing the situation objectively (see #1), then let your loved one know how you feel when that happens (see #2) and then communicate what you need (#3).
Communicate this to your partner objectively to get the best response to any request you have—from toothpaste caps to more personal issues. If you and your partner are in the San Diego area and need additional support with communication, consider making a marriage therapy or couples counseling appointment.
About Jennine Estes, MFT
Think of me as your relationship consultant, I'm your neutral third party that can help you untangle the emotions and help you figure out what's really going on. I am a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego, CA. Certified in Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples. Supervisor. I write relationship and self growth advice for my column Relationships in the Raw. Creator of #BeingLOVEDIs campaign. MFC#47653