Defusing Your Partner
If your partner is constantly pouring out emotions, you may have become tired of listening. When one person is stoic, the other may carry all the worry, anger, or grief for the relationship. When reserved people shut others out, their partners feel compelled to try to get through to them. If the less emotional person learns to show understanding, there can be an infusion of love, romance, and even sexuality into a relationship. The following steps can begin to reverse this painful pattern:
DISTRESS BETWEEN PARTNERS
When your partner is upset with you, it can be especially difficult to follow the above strategies. In many relationships, people become stuck in parent/child roles, in which one person is critical and the other defensive. Be your own judge and strive to meet your own standards. This will free you to be more understanding and even playful in the face of your partner’s disapproval. If you have been so beaten down that you’ve lost self-
confidence, get help, because you must learn to feel good about yourself or you will always be at the mercy of critics. At times, both partners can be emotional and attacking. Each one is trying so hard to get his or her point across that neither is listening and the situation escalates. Generally, the person experiencing the lesser amount of distress will find it easier to break this cycle. After using the above strategies, you can fine-tune them with the following
When your partner’s distress is approaching an explosion, it is easy to feel helpless. The first step to regaining your power is to understand that people usually feel powerless when they are yelling. They think the only way they will ever be heard is by raising their voice. When others withdraw or argue back, shouting becomes louder. Several strategies can change this pattern. Practice different approaches and use the one that works best for you:
See The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman (Crown Publishers, 1999) for more information on resolving relationship conflict.