When you are ‘fighting’, it might be very tempting to throw a zinger at them – a put down, insult or other words that will push their buttons.
These wear down at the connection and intimacy.
Instead: Lose the judgment. Find another way to say what is on your mind.
Avoid global labels – criticizing the whole person, rather than the action.
When criticizing the person instead of the action, you are essentially saying that the other person is bad, to the core.
In using global labels you are trying to wash your hands of any responsibility for the problem. However, at the same time, your spouse will feel unable and unwilling to do anything about it either.
Instead: Address the problem.
When you blame the other, you are essentially saying ‘You were wrong and bad for doing this to me.’ This makes the other become defensive and it will be so much more difficult to work through the issue.
Instead: Use I statements.
Bringing up old problems will just exacerbate the intensity of the upset.
Additionally, it will probably send the current problem to the back as you end up discussing all the previous problems too.
Plus, your spouse will be hurt that you still haven’t let go of past grievances.
Instead: Stay focused on the present issue.
Being compared negatively to anyone stings.
Additionally, these statements are usually said when the listener doesn’t quite stack up to what the other is hoping. That stings too.
Instead: Find another way to say what is on your mind.
Too often, we feel that we don’t have to (or ‘shouldn’t have to) spell everything out for our spouse. “They know exactly what I mean.” But oftentimes, they simply don’t.
Additionally, you have had the thought in your head before saying it, so you may have been thinking about the details longer.
A whole message includes the context, thoughts, feelings and needs.
“The house is a mess. (context/ observation) It seems that we aren’t putting much effort into keeping it neat. (thoughts) I feel quite frustrated at this state of affairs (feelings) because I really do like to surrounded by order (needs).”
Sometimes, we don’t like to say it straight out, so we hint or disguise our intent. Or, we want to make the other feel badly for what they did or didn’t do.
We might turn a judgment into an observation (“Here you are finally, late as usual”). Or, we might throw out a rhetorical question (“Is there a reason your coat is on the back of the chair?”)
A clear message says what you are really thinking and feeling, and the request associated.
“It is 8:00, and you just came home (context/ observation). It seems that lately you are coming home later and later. (thoughts) I feel sad (feelings) because I would like to spend more time with you (needs).”