How to avoid the fight to save your nightWritten by Lori Hollander | | email@example.com
Women initiate 80 percent of couples’ conflicts according to the research, and at this moment, you know exactly why. If your partner would just listen, (really listen), then you could avoid this fight. Maybe even enjoy a peaceful night together. So why won’t your partner do you this one little favor?
Ideally, once you tell your partner what upset you, he would immediately acknowledge his blunder (while apologizing profusely and acknowledging your plight). Then you could move on to that peaceful night together.
But the reality is different. The more you talk, the angrier you get. And you know if you continue down this path, it will get (a lot) worse. Because you’ve done this before (many times).
Yet, defying all rational thought, you are about to do it again.
Really, you want to make love, not war. Honestly, even making dinner together would be nice. But to enjoy it, you have to feel good together again. So you are trying, trying, trying to get him to understand why he upset you, and in the process, edging ever closer to war.
Why is that that your partner so frequently does not see when you were right and he was, ahem, wrong?
You might say that he just doesn’t get it (or doesn’t want to get it). And why is that? You might point out that the problem is that he is not listening. If he were listening, after all, surely he would have understood you by now.
And you would be right. He is not listening. But the bad news? You might be the reason why.
When upset, the difference making love and war rests on a small but vital fact. Talking about him will lead to war while talking about you leads to emotional intimacy.
And the natural inclination is to talk about him because it rolls right off the tongue so easily. Sharing your upset this way sounds like, “I can’t believe you. You should have known!” or “What kind of person would do such a thing?”
But all you are actually sharing is… that he is bad guy.
No surprise, that is where you lost him. Faced with an attack on his person, he will immediately begin building his defense (especially considering how hard he tries for you). The result? No time left to listen to whatever it was you were saying.
Enough about him and more about you! Give him room to do what you want: to listen and understand you fully. Here’s how.
1. Acknowledge that there is no right or wrong before saying anything else: Disarm him by saying, “I don’t believe you intended to upset me, though I am upset by what you did. So I want to explain my side, ok?” Treat him like he is on your side, not against you. In return he will take your side rather than fight you.
2. Sum up what upset you in one line: A one liner helps you get to your most important point right away. Details later. My clients immediately sound calm, cool, and collected using this simple trick, no matter how upset they were. And they elicit far better responses from their partners, too.
3. Take the spotlight and share yourself: You must know yourself to share yourself, a fundamental component of real intimacy. Strive toward sharing by asking yourself, “What is it about me that made his action especially difficult for me?” Now share it.
4. Ask for what you want: If you don’t know what would help the situation for you, then there is no reason that he should, either. Give yourself room to figure it out. And once you do, tell him.
Now your partner is listening. In fact, you have his full attention. He wants to know more about what works for you (and is thrilled to hear less about what doesn’t).
Sure, sharing yourself takes more work than jumping on your partner. But war takes far more work than sharing yourself. And sharing yourself leads to deep emotional intimacy. Because the more he truly knows about you, the better he can love you.
And may that peaceful night be yours after all.
Lori Hollander is a dual-certified couples and sex therapist at the Center for Intimacy in Ann Arbor. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.