Helping Your Partner to Defuse You
When you want to let off steam, it can be frustrating if you are open and your partner is closed. Some people have a hard time listening because they fear they will be criticized or they think they have to solve others’ problems. However, there are things you can do to help such partners be more attentive:
DISTRESS BETWEEN PARTNERS
When you are upset with your partner, it may be even more difficult to gain the understanding you want. This is especially true if you have become stuck in the role of the critic and question whether your partner can do anything right. The more you disapprove, the less likely he or she is to cooperate and the more upset you feel. Although your disapproval may feel completely justified, strong opinions suggest that you are seeing a situation only from your point of view. There are steps you can take to feel better about your partner and to help him or her be more cooperative:
Frustrated efforts to talk or general dissatisfaction can cause an explosion. Even nonemotional people can hold in feelings for so long that they become enraged and make statements that can do irreparable harm. You may think you are simply expressing your feelings, but explosions always come out as an attack full of blame, accusations, and threats, and they rarely express the underlying hurt or frustration causing the problem. Even if you think you have to get your feelings out, you can take steps to do this in constructive ways:
Strategies for letters to partners and other ideas in this handout are adapted from Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus by John Gray (HarperCollins, 1992).