Cycle 2: MY OPINION ISN’T HEARD
Sometimes, one partner thinks he/she knows what is best for the relationship, or believe their experience trumps another partner’s ideas or suggestions. This unbalance likely leaves you very frustrated over time.
Cycle 1: MY TIME ISN’T VALUED
Tips for the Partner Needing Time
“I need some time for me!”
When you ask your partner to be there for you whether it’s covering the childcare, picking you up from work, or having your back, and he/she isn’t, you likely feel frustrated and hurt.
- Communicate without blame. Communicate openly, honestly, and without blaming your partner. This can go a long way towards change in a relationship. Next time you feel your partner has disrespected your time, or not followed through on an agreement, be upfront and use ‘I Statements’, such as “I was hurt and worried when you didn’t come home by 10pm like you said you would.”
- Don’t be passive aggressive. Sometimes, we want our partner to notice when something is wrong rather than being upfront about it. If you find yourself sighing, moping, or being passive aggressive with your partner after they have upset you, try instead to be honest. Acting in a passive aggressive manner is unpleasant for your partner and will rarely get your goals accomplished, so try not to do it!
- Agree on changes. Think specifically about how your partner could change his/her behavior to show you he/she respects your time. Set agreements with your partner around expectations. By making clear the expectation, you and your partner will know when something is off. Could they commit to specific chores, tasks, or plans? Or sending texts or phone calls to check in with you?
- Be specific. Or, is there something specific you can ask your partner to do differently. Such as to turn off the TV on while talking with you? Or showing up on time to dates or appointments?
The Other Partner
“I’m doing the best I can!”
It may feel like you can’t win – your partner always wants more from you than you can give. Over time, you might get tired of feeling like you always let him/her down.
- Make your effort known. We often want to appear invincible to our partner, like we have it all together at all times. However, letting your partner know when you are trying your hardest is important. Creating space for an honest conversation is key. Make a list of ways you contribute to the household or the relationship. Sometimes we don’t realize all the ways in which our partners are helping! But be sure to do it in a calm and non-defensive way.
- Be specific. Ask your partner what are the most important ways you can support him/her and respect his/her time. Is punctuality important to him/her? Or following through with agreements? Ask for some constructive, specific feedback about ways the two of you can better work together.
- Know your limits. Everyone has areas of strength and weakness. What are yours? If certain tasks are particularly difficult for you like knowing the specifics or logistics of who is picking up the kids or remembering to pay the bills on time, ask your partner for assistance with those things. Offer to take on other tasks that you might like more (or be better at) if your partner agrees to take on the tasks that you seem to forget or don’t do very well.
Cycle 2: MY OPINION ISN’T HEARD
The Partner Who Feels They Don’t Have A Voice
“My ideas, opinions, and thoughts are important, too!”
Feeling that your opinion is respected and that you have a voice in your relationship is important. If it seems like your partner doesn’t listen, it can make you feel resentful and taken advantage of.
- Recognize your differences. Are you someone who likes to talk through problems and process it with a friend or partner? Or are you someone who likes to immediately jump to action. What’s your partner’s style? If your style is different from your partner’s, start an open conversation (non-blaming!) about how this difference may impact you feeling not valued.
- Plan ahead. Make bullet points of what the most important things are you want to say in a conversation before it starts. This should not be a list of things you partner has done ‘wrong’, but rather a reminder to you of what you hope to cover during the conversation. Recognize that your partner should also get a chance to share his/her thoughts and ideas, too.
- Be direct. Sometimes, we avoid talking about topics that upset us because they are hard to talk about. Find a system so that you can start these harder conversations. Maybe you can text your partner that you want to talk about something when you both are home. That way both people know what is coming later. You could also leave your partner a note about something you’d like to discuss.
The Other Partner
“I’ve dealt with this before; you don’t know what you’re talking about!”
If you have dealt with similar situations in the past, you likely learned a thing or two about the best way to solve such issues. When your partner doubts or second guesses you it may feel disrespectful and unhelpful.
- Remember to listen. Even if the solution or outcome to a problem is obvious to you, take the time to stop and listen to your partner’s ideas and opinions. He/she may think of a solution you hadn’t considered! More importantly, decision making should come from both members of the couple, especially when the outcome affects both partners. Allowing your partner to be a part of the brainstorming – even if the two of you end up deciding on the solution you favored initially – will increase your partner’s commitment to carrying out that solution.
- Pause to ask why. When your partner needs more time or wants to discuss something further, ask why this is important to them and consider why it might be frustrating for you. Are there certain experiences from your past that make you want to solve problems as soon as they arise? Did a past relationship struggle due to similar themes? Instead, suggest a time when you can come back together to finish the conversation and make a decision after your partner has had some time to think about it. Even if you usually end up agreeing on the idea you propose, making sure your partner feels his/her opinion was heard and considered makes for a more equal partnership.
- Divide decisions. Are there certain decisions the two of you can make on your own versus others you want to make together? Make a list of what decisions you feel the two of you should be able to make independently and what decisions need both partner’s input. This could free you both up from frustrating conversations that really only need one mind while simultaneously focusing both partners’ energy on the important choices. This process can also help highlight to your partner the things he/she does have decision making power on. However, if it becomes clear that you make almost all of the decisions, then it might be time to divide things more equally. You may even find that having your partner make more decisions takes some pressure off of you!
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