Have you ever had something come up in your relationship with your partner and you get this funny little feeling that the person is not exactly pleased with whatever it is you are or are not doing? Often when this happens, the person getting the hint clams up and begins to judge or criticize one’s self regarding what the partner wants the person to do.
All of a sudden you have one person secretly hinting at something he is upset about and the other feeling bad about one’s self and trying to move to “fix it.”
Guess what’s missing?
Communication of course. However, if someone feels like she is being criticized, it’s often easier to judge self, criticize self, vow to do better, and then try. However, the whole thing sounds arduous and doesn’t leave two people feeling closer, but rather passive in how things are communicated and then, without even knowing it, resentments can build.
What’s an alternative? Lean in!
The idea is simple. When you get that feeling that your partner is displeased, naming it rather than taking it on and figuring it out on your own is the first step.
When you bring it up, do so in the spirit of curiosity. What is your partner trying to tell you? Perhaps it’s that she wants you to help out with housework around the house without being asked. Noticing that is the issue and then naming it with the other, and then asking, “How does it feel to do all of the chores and not have any help?” or “Why does this matter to you?”
Ask questions that open your partner up to telling you more about what she is experiencing in the here and now moment, as well as how this evolved to matter for her. This is also an opportunity for you to let your partner know your side of the story as well. By listening to one another, you can learn a whole lot more about one another and then strive to find a solution that works for both of you.
It won’t be perfect, but in leaning in and opening up the conversation, both parties will have a better sense of what is going on around the topic and who we are in regard to it. From there, compromises can be made and solutions found. More importantly, you will not have taken something on that may or may not be yours and your relationship may gain a further depth of understanding.
Maintaining a curious stance about your partner is key throughout the journey.