Help Your Partner Understand Your Side of the Conflict in 3 Steps

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Help Your Partner Understand Your Side of the Conflict in 3 Steps

By Kyle Benson

There’s no way around it: being misunderstood sucks. It can make you feel frustrated, upset, and hopeless. It can feel even worse in times of conflict.

Conflict isn’t easy. There’s hurt. There’s misunderstanding. And, at the same time, there are parts of us that are screaming to feel validated and understood. The problem for many of us is we have learned to communicate in a way that actually pushes our partners away from truly understanding us or meeting our needs. It’s common to see criticism or contempt in a relationship where partners feel disconnected and misunderstood.

Ultimately, conflict is created by a lack of attunement. This is because one of our deepest needs is for others to understand, or attune to, us. This desire to be “seen” starts when we are young. Take kids, for example: when they play hide-and-seek, they love to be found.

As adults, we crave to be seen in our rawness. To courageously allow another into our inner emotional world. This is why Brene Brown links vulnerability with wholehearted living because vulnerability allows us to be truly known by another. She also refers to vulnerability as the glue that holds relationships together.

But being vulnerable is no easy task. It’s much easier to blame or attack our partners for the problems in our relationship, rather than express how we are feeling.

For example, say your partner leaves the room when you get into an argument. Your gut response may be to blame and yell, “You’re a coward for leaving the room when we fight!” But if you took the more courageous, vulnerable route, you might instead say, “I feel scared and inadequate when you leave the room during our fight. My fear is that I’m not good enough for you to fight for. Is there a way I can bring up a conflict so you and I can work through it together?”

Can you see how easy it is to hide compared to how courageous it is to be vulnerable and seen?

When you speak in a gentle, open way that allows your partner to attune to you, you help them to understand why you feel the way you do. As a result, you feel more emotionally connected, which builds trust, increases intimacy, and makes sex oh so much better. Not to mention that when your partner understands your perspective, they are more willing to meet your needs as well as their own.

So how can you get your partner to attune to you during conflict?

Over the next six weeks, we are going to teach you the skills to attune to each other during your weekly, hour-long State of the Union conversation.

The first skill of attunement for the speaker is the “A” in A.T.T.U.N.E., and it stands for Awareness.

Speak with awareness

By speaking with awareness, we mean that the speaker chooses words mindfully and avoids making the listening partner feel cornered or defensive. This then helps the listening partner open up to understanding because they are not under attack.

Here are three ways you can speak with more awareness:

1. Use “I” statements
An “I” statement reflects your feelings, perceptions, and experiences. Using the word “you” during conflict has the opposite effect: it points fingers at your partner’s feelings, behavior, or personality. And as the saying goes, whenever you point your finger at someone, there are three fingers pointing back to you.During a session, a client of mine I’ll call Tristan said to his partner, “You are so self-centered. You clearly didn’t think about how uncomfortable I felt sitting at Canlis (a fancy restaurant) all alone!” His partner instantly became defensive. “No I’m not! I had to stay late to finish up the proposal for the meeting tomorrow so we can take our trip this weekend.”When we paused and tried the discussion again—this time focusing on using “I” statements—Tristan’s tone changed completely. “I wish you had shown up to the restaurant on time,” he said. “I felt like a loser sitting there waiting for you next to the other couples sitting around our table. I even had a little kid staring at me like I was weird. I felt really lonely…”

This softer approach allowed his partner to relate to where he was coming from and find common ground. Her response? “It sucks to sit alone in a restaurant. I know that feeling. I’m sorry. I’ll make sure to be more mindful of the time.”

2. Focus on one issue
Since you have your partner’s undivided attention during your State of the Union conversation, it can be very tempting to lay out all of your relationship problems at once. But the more problems you try to air, the less likely they are to be solved. Instead, focus on one event and describe it like a journalist:

  • “I would like you to take out the trash without me having to ask you to do it.”
  • “I feel frustrated when you come home later than you say you will without checking in with me.”

3. Protect your partner’s triggers
In Stan Tatkin’s audio program Your Brain on Love, he states 11 facts about people in relationships. The seventh is “Romantic Partners are Responsible for Each Other’s Past.” Whether we like it or not, we are affected by the raw spots in our partner’s past, just as they are affected by ours.

These raw spots can escalate conflict if they are not cared for. Your partner’s baggage may be a source of irritation, but it’s unrealistic to expect them to drop their pain points and “change.” Instead, you can prevent conflict from worsening by working around their triggers with compassion.

Intimately knowing your partner gives you the superpower to love them compassionately despite their raw spots, or to severely hurt them with the knowledge you have. The latter breaks relationships, while the former builds them.

Next week, we will teach you the next letter T, which stands for Tolerance of your partner’s perspective.

How you talk to your partner about issues in your relationship determines how effectively the relationship problems are resolved. If you want to change your partner’s behavior towards you, start by changing your behavior towards them.

If you would like help with your relationship communication, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

The #1 Thing Couples Fight About

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The #1 Thing Couples Fight About

By The Gottman Institute

According to the Einstein of Love, Dr. John Gottman, the #1 thing couples fight about is . . . nothing:”

How to Defuse a Big Fight

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How to Defuse a Big Fight

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

You’re in the heat of battle. Your spouse has morphed into a nearly unrecognizable person, and you’re running defense in the worst way possible. What started out as a small disagreement has exploded into a full-scale BIG FIGHT.

How did it get to this point? More importantly, how are you going to get out of it without causing major damage to your relationship?

HIT THE BRAKES.

If your fight is spiraling quickly out of control, it’s time to take a breather. It’s up to you how long you take to cool down, but do whatever it takes to stop the escalation. Don’t allow the destruction of a bad fight to continue unchecked, but don’t drop the issue without revisiting and resolving it, either.

As you step away from the fight to consider what might be done to resolve your problem, focus on the components of a good fight that we like to call the C.O.R.E.

C – COOPERATION

A great way to reach a mutually beneficial resolution in a fight is to create a win-win situation. You can consider your options in multiple ways; one effective way to do this is to write down the outcomes both of you want to achieve, then set about looking for ways that you can both benefit.

When you come back together, present your suggestions to your spouse. If your spouse rejects your initial suggestions, work together to create solutions that are agreeable to both of you. This may take a little maneuvering, but it can be done!

O – OWNERSHIP

Next, consider which parts of the situation you can take ownership of. You should never own something that isn’t yours (like your spouse’s bad behavior), but you can own your reactions to the situation.

We like to call it the “chaos pie”–so which slices of the pie belong to you? Which portions of your chaos should you claim?

Owning the parts of the conflict that are yours, and taking responsibility for them, is a huge step toward the healthy resolution of the fight you’re in. By claiming what’s yours, you lift those burdens from your spouse’s shoulders, clarify your position, and allow them the chance to identify which parts they should own, as well.

If you’re both acknowledging responsibility toward your parts of the conflict, you can work together more successfully to make things right.

R – RESPECT (LISTEN & HEAR)

Respect is a key ingredient in every relationship, and in conflict, it plays a particularly important role.

A critical part of respect is listening to–and truly hearing–your spouse during a conflict. Let them know you’re engaged and paying attention to what they’re telling you. It might even be helpful to repeat back what you hear them saying to you for clarity. And if you’re off the mark, you’re giving them a chance to clarify.

Also, be attentive to your body language and your nonverbal expressions. Don’t sigh loudly or roll your eyes. Show your spouse that what they’re saying is important, and they deserve to be heard.

The absence of respect in a fight will cause your issues to spiral out of control. But if you determine to intentionally show respect to your spouse, even in conflict, you are laying the groundwork for healthy resolution of any issues you may face together.

E – EMPATHY

If you can develop the ability to walk in your spouse’s shoes, you’ll gain an entirely new perspective on your situation. Endeavor to see the issue the way he or she sees it. This doesn’t mean that empathy will lead you to change your own perspective; it will just help you understand where your spouse is coming from.

Empathy protects your heart from becoming hardened, and when you’re in a big fight, you’ll need that protection.

NOW BEGIN AGAIN.

 

If you would like to receive help in areas of conflict, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

 

The Behavior that is the Top Predictor of Divorce

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This Behavior Is The #1 Predictor Of Divorce, And You’re Guilty Of It

By Brittany Wong

Ever catch yourself rolling your eyes at your partner or getting a little too sarcastic during a conversation? Those seemingly small behaviors are not that innocent after all.

According to renowned researcher John Gottman, contemptuous behavior like eye-rolling, sarcasm and name-calling is the number one predictor of divorce.

For 40 years, the University of Washington psychology professor and his team at the Gottman Institute have studied couples’ interactions to determine the key predictors of divorce — or as Gottman calls them, “the four horsemen of the apocalypse.”

Contempt is the number one sign, followed by criticism, defensiveness and stonewalling (emotionally withdrawing from your partner.)

So how do you curb contempt in your own marriage and stave off divorce? Below, experts share seven things you can do to keep contempt in check.

1. Realize that delivery is everything. 

“Remember, it’s not what you say, but how you say it that makes all the difference. Contempt often comes in the form of name-calling, snickering, sarcasm, eye-rolling and long heavy sighs. Like a poison, it can erode the trust and safety in your relationship and bring your marriage to a slow death. Your goal is to be heard. You need to present your message in a way that makes this happen without doing damage to the relationship.” — Christine Wilke, a marriage therapist based in Easton, Pennsylvania

2. Ban the word “whatever” from your vocabulary.

“When you say ‘whatever’ to your partner, you’re basically saying you’re not going to listen to them. This sends them a message that whatever they’re talking about is unimportant and has no merit to you. This is the last thing you want your spouse to hear. Sending messages (even indirectly through contempt) that they’re not important will end a relationship pretty quickly.” — Aaron Anderson, a Denver, Colorado-based marriage and family therapist

3. Stay clear of sarcasm and mean-spirited jokes.

“Avoid sarcasm and comments like, ‘I’ll bet you do!’ or ‘Oh, that was super funny” in a rude tone of voice. While you’re at it, don’t make jokes at the expense of your partner or make universal comments about his or her gender (‘You would say that — you’re a guy’).” — LeMel Firestone-Palerm, a marriage and family therapist 

4. Don’t live in the past.

“Most couples start showing contempt because they have let a lot of little things build up. To avoid contempt all together, you need to stay current in your communications along the way. If you’re unhappy about something, say it directly. Also, acknowledge the valid complaints your partner has about you — you’ll probably be less self-righteous the next time you fight.” –Judith and Bob Wright,authors of The Heart of the Fight: A Couple’s Guide to Fifteen Common Fights, What They Really Mean, and How They Can Bring You Closer

5. Watch your body language.

“If you find yourself rolling your eyes or smirking, it is a signal that your relationship could be headed for trouble. Try taking a break from each other if things get heated, or try focusing on positive aspects that you like about your partner.” — Chelli Pumphrey, a counselor based in Denver, Colorado

6. Don’t ever tell your spouse, “you’re overreacting.”

“When you say you’re SO is overreacting, what you’re really saying is that their feelings are unimportant to you. Instead of telling your partner that they’re overreacting, listen to their point of view. Try to understand where they’re coming from and why they feel that way. They have those feelings for a reason.” — Aaron Anderson 

7. If you find yourself being contemptuous, stop and take a deep breath.

“Make it your goal to become aware of what contempt is. Then find out specifically what it looks like in your marriage. When you feel the urge to go there, take a deep breath, and say ‘stop’ quietly to yourself. Find another way to make your point. Contempt is a bad habit like smoking or nail biting. With work, you can break it.” — Bonnie Ray Kennan, a psychotherapist based in Torrance, California

 

If you would like help in your marriage or relationship, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

15 Ways to Calm a Fight

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Graphic from the article 15 Ways to Calm a Fight by Michelle of #StayMarried

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If you would like more help with conflict and fights, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

Bad Fight vs Good Fight

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Conflict can be a destructive or a constructive event withing a relationship. An attitude of “me-ness” will lead to a bad and destructive fight while an attitude of “we-ness” will lead to a constructive and good fight.  Below is a diagram based on the work of Drs. Les and Leslie Parrot (posted on TGI) that can help create a good fight.

good-fight

 

If you would like help in learning and developing constructive conflict skills please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

Conflict is an Opportunity

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Conflict is an Opportunity

By Erik Raymond

Most people don’t enjoy conflict. We tend to avoid it if we can. I suppose there is something healthy about this fact. We certainly don’t want to enjoy conflict.

However, there is something that is lost, particularly for Christians, when we avoid biblically handling necessary conflict. We could rightly say that in this case there is an unhealthy avoidance of conflict.

CONFLICT IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO DENY INSTEAD OF COMFORT OURSELVES.

Let’s think about the basis of our fellowship and relationship with other Christians. We are united—before anything else—by and through Jesus Christ. The way that we come to share in fellowship together is by individually sharing in the fellowship with Christ. So whether we are talking about a marriage, other family dynamics, or other friendships within the church, the primary basis for our relationship is the gospel. And let’s not forget that the way in which we come to enjoy the benefits of the gospel is to admit that we are sinners who have come to realize our sin and our need for a Savior.

With this level of transparency why do we then proceed to live in such a way that we avoid conflict? Husbands and wives avoid necessary conversations because it makes them uncomfortable. Friends at church insist on not dealing with patterns of sin because it makes them uncomfortable. Do you see the painful irony here? The primary basis of our relationship is the fact that we admit that we are sinners and need a Savior, so then why do we live in such a way that says that we are neither sinners nor in need of a Savior? This type of living, even just a sliver of it, can make a marriage or a church unhealthy, because it mutes the gospel and masks pride. Jesus calls us to a life of self-denial not self-comfort.

CONFLICT IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO TURN UP THE GOSPEL VOLUME.

I have sat across the table from people who seem like godly men and women. In the course of our discussion it became clear that they had an issue with one or more people. In effort to try to get it worked out I remember appealing to them that whatever the issue was I can assure them that we have a gospel that is big enough to handle it. Whatever has happened we can get it worked out. Let’s put this big gospel to work.

Sadly, I’ve often been rebuffed by stoic glares and unwilling hearts. Content to nurse a grudge they sadly mute the gospel and ensure that nothing gets solved.

CONFLICT IS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR INTIMACY.

When properly addressed within the context of the gospel, conflict is actually a surprising minister in the relationship. By addressing conflict and sin biblically it actually forges a deeper intimacy than personal comfort could ever do. I have seen husbands and wives work through big stuff and come out shining brighter than the couples that play prevent defense in their marriage. I’ve seen young people and older people become great friends after working out their issues together through gospel humility.

This is because the gospel is the great unifier. It brings all of us low. Jesus teaches us that the way down is the way up (Phil. 2:3-10). How could it be any different in our relationships?

CONFLICT IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO EMBRACE PROVIDENCE.

Failing to address conflict also says something about our view of providence. If God is truly upholding and governing all things, bringing everything to pass that comes to pass, then what are we to say about our conflict? Providence has permitted it at this time. We must apply the Word of God and this big gospel for the glory of God and the good of ourselves and others.

Too many times we in the church deploy the world’s methods and hope for heaven’s results. It simply won’t happen. We cannot mute the gospel and expect blessing. We cannot second-guess providence and hope for good. We cannot avoid any type of discomfort and expect genuine community. After all, in the church where the requirement for entry is admitting that you often break things, we should not pretend that we are perfect, nor should we expect that others will be.

Conflict can drive us apart or close, depending on whether or not we apply the gospel.

Extended Conflict: 5 Tips for Overcoming a Stalemate

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Extended Conflict: 5 Tips for Overcoming a Stalemate

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Inevitably, you and your spouse will run into issues you can’t agree on that will lead to friction in your relationship. Instead of letting conflict simmer, unresolved–where it will eventually burn up your relationship–allow it to shed light.

It’s frustrating and painful to get locked in a stalemate with your spouse…the one person you really don’t want to disagree with. Here are 5 tips for overcoming an unresolved conflict in your marriage.

  1. DON’T AVOID CONFLICT

In the short run, it’s very easy to avoid conflict. But long-term, it can be damaging–so you can’t ignore issues, especially if you’ve reached a stalemate with your spouse.

Ignoring conflict–instead of addressing your disagreement head-on–will create additional undercurrent issues in your marriage that might not have existed otherwise. Additionally, buried feelings have a high rate of resurrection…and unfortunately, when they arise again, they’re uglier than when we first felt them. You could unintentionally create a minefield for you and your spouse.

Get your conflict issues out in the open, and put them on the table. This exchange with your spouse doesn’t have to be loud, loaded or emotional; focus on having a relaxed and fully present conversation where you reveal that you have conflicting feelings over certain issues.

  1. RATE THE DEPTH OF YOUR DISAGREEMENT

When you and your spouse can’t see eye to eye on a certain issue, try using a rating system to rate how deeply you feel about whatever you’re disagreeing on. You can rate items from 1-10 (least to most important) to give yourself an objective view of how invested each of you are in certain outcomes.

Rating your issues will help keep you from checking out on each other when the going gets tough. Download our freeConflict Card for an easy way to rate the depth of your disagreement and the importance of the issues you’re dealing with together.

  1. STEER CLEAR OF CRITICISM

When hashing out a particular problem or disagreement, steer clear of making critical comments toward your spouse. Criticism can take an argument in a very damaging direction.

We’ve all felt it: someone throws a critical comment in our direction, and we immediately become defensive. Emotions are heightened all the more between spouses, and it can be too easy to hurt the person we’re supposed to love the most.

Instead of being critical, turn your critical comments into complaints. That may sound counterproductive, but it will actually help you keep the emphasis off your spouse, and put it back on you and your feelings.

How you begin your statement makes all the difference. Focus on starting with an “I” statement. Instead of saying, “You never pick up your dirty laundry. You’re such a slob!” you could try, “When you don’t pick up the laundry, I feel frustrated. How can we resolve this?”

Another useful tool to keep criticism at bay is the XYZ Formula. To use it, just follow this simple construct and make it applicable to your situation: “In situation X, when you do Y, I feel Z.” It’s a great way to avoid criticizing your spouse and having to deal with hurt feelings in addition to the conflict or disagreement you’re already working to resolve.

  1. PRACTICE EMPATHY

Empathy is the capacity to put yourself in your spouse’s shoes–and it’s SO crucial in marriage. Practicing empathy allows you to see the world from your spouse’s perspective, and imagine living life in their skin.

Feeling things from inside out will have a great impact on you, and in turn, your relationship with your spouse. We’re all hard-wired differently; there’s not one right or wrong way to do most things. We are who we are, and it can be difficult to accept this without being empathetic to one another.

Being empathetic is risky behavior because it will change you. Once you’ve learned to practice empathy, you won’t be the same person you were. You’ll be more accepting of others…and in the case of this stalemate with your spouse, empathy could give you a deeper insight into your spouse’s stance, and why they’ve taken it.

  1. WORK TOWARD CLOSURE

When you find yourselves on the other side of an extended, unresolved conflict (or sometimes, when you’re right in the middle of it), you may find that you have many unresolved emotions to deal with. Burying these emotions will begin a new cycle of conflict, so it’s important to handle these feelings head-on rather than suppressing them.

Make a list of things you consider unfinished or unresolved, and work to get closure with your spouse. Do the necessary work to get internal closure for yourself, as well. Journaling is a great way to process your feelings until they’re out.

CONFLICT ISN’T THE END

It’s important to learn that conflict isn’t the end of your relationship. Once you move past the fear of conflict, you can begin to build confidence in your ability to face and overcome issues together.


If you would like help working through conflict in a healthy and constructive way, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-45-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

Marriage Insight: Not Wrong, Just Different

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By Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

In a survey of seven thousand married individuals, we asked the question, “When in a conflict with your spouse, do you feel unloved or disrespected?” The results were truly staggering. Eighty-three percent of the husbands said “disrespected” and 72 percent of the wives said “unloved.”

How could married men and women, when asked the exact same question, overwhelmingly answer in such opposite fashion? Well, as we like to say, one viewpoint is “not wrong, just different.” As different as male is from female. As different as pink is from blue. That’s why we like to describe wives as approaching conflict through all things pink (love) and husbands as all things blue (respect). This felt need of each reflects perfectly Ephesians 5:33!

Wives, your husband is not approaching conflict with your pink goggles on, but instead is coming at it from his blue vantage point.

Husbands, your wife is not entering conflict with your blue goggles on, but instead is approaching it with pink lenses.

You must always be aware of this vast difference between you and your spouse.

Today’s Question: As a wife, you may feel he ought not to feel disrespected since you seek to do the loving thing by pointing out things he needs to change. As a husband, you may feel she ought not to feel unloved since you seek to do the respectful thing by withdrawing to calm down, to prevent the conflict from escalating. Will you dismiss the other as childish, overly sensitive, and egotistical?

Today’s Challenge: Read this statement and meditate on it every chance you get: “Though I cannot imagine that my spouse ought to feel unloved and disrespected during marital conflicts, since I am seeking to do the respectful and loving thing, I will see that God made us different. We are male and female (Matthew 19:4) with honest differences, especially in the way we deal with conflict. When we clash over differing preferences, and I feel I am right, I will not declare that my spouse has to be wrong. I will subscribe to this truth: Neither of us is wrong, just different.


If you would like help dealing with conflict within your marriage, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with one of our counselors or coaches.

5 Phrases That Can Kill a Relationship…And Alternatives That Will Bring You Closer Together

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5 Phrases That Can Kill a Relationship

…And Alternatives That Will Bring You Closer Together

By Kira Asatryan

rain coupleAny relationship can benefit from more closeness. Closeness is created between two people through knowing each other well and caring for each other openly. These are simple actions you can start doing any time, with anyone you choose. Closeness—the antidote to loneliness—is very much within your control.

One of the first things I encourage my clients to do to create more closeness in their relationships is to adjust their language in small but powerful ways.

Here are 5 phrases to avoid if you want your relationships to feel closer:

1. “Why?”

A first phrase to avoid is just one single word: “Why” isn’t the best way to pose a question to someone you want to be close to because it can unintentionally create defensiveness. “Why” is the language of accusation (“Why did you do that?”; “Why do you feel that way?”). Despite what may be innocent intentions, that single word primes another person to think of reasons to defend himself or herself.

To feel the subversive power of “why,” the next time you sit down to a nice dinner or to watch a movie, ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Feel the anxiety it provokes? That’s the same anxiety most “why” questions provoke in others—and it’s an experience that will not bring you closer to someone

Alternative: Rephrase your “why” questions as “what” or “how” questions. “Why am I doing this?” becomes “What am I getting out of this?” Feel the difference? The first version accuses; the second just wants to understand.

2. “You need to…”

“You” is a tricky word in the closeness vocabulary. It can certainly bring people together (“You are so sweet”) but when it slides into telling your partner what he or she needs to be doing differently, it can definitely cause division.

The key phrases to pay attention to are the ones that begin with, “You need to…” (“You need to be more assertive”; “You need to be more organized”). These have the potential to hinder closeness because they imply that your partner should change in some specific way, based on your opinions. When creating closeness, it’s best not to present your opinions as mandates. “You need to” creates a mandate that will drive a wedge between people.

Alternative: Try focusing on your own experience of the situation. For example, “You need to be more assertive” might become, “I would like us to make more decisions together.” “You need to be more organized” might become, “I wonder if we can work on straightening out the closets.” Sharing your perspective on the situation fosters closeness and prevents gaps from forming.

3. “I’m sorry if…”

Almost everyone finds it hard to admit when they’ve done something wrong. But as we all make mistakes in our lives, apologizing is essential to maintaining closeness over a long period of time. One of the biggest mistakes people make here is starting an apology with, “I’m sorry if…” (“I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings”; “I’m sorry if you felt that way”).

These are not apologies that create closeness because closeness is bolstered by taking at least some responsibility when you’ve done something wrong. Using “if” in your apology allows you to dodge responsibility by putting it back on the other person. “I’m sorry if you felt that way.” See that big “you” there?

Alternative: Apologizing well is about being committed to taking some responsibility. “I’m sorry I…” and “I’m sorry for…” work infinitely better than “I’m sorry if…” A simple “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings” is the type of apology that brings people closer together.

4. “Why don’t you just…”

You know this phrase is trouble because it starts with a “why”—but it gets its own spot in the Top 5 because this and its other versions (“You could just…”; “You should just…”) shut down conversation when your partner needs it most—when he or she is struggling.

Giving your partner advice or offering up solutions to problems is great—when he or she asks for it. But when he or she simply wants to tell you about one of their struggles, inserting a “why don’t you just…” implies that the struggle is not valid. From your point of view it seems that it could easily be solved if they just did x, y, or z. This creates distance because, although it may not have been your intention, you just invalidated their experience.

Alternative: When your partner is struggling with something, your main task is to be present and engaged. That stance in its very simplicity creates the most closeness. And when he or she is ready to do something differently, then offer to help brainstorm solutions. Collaboration is advice, closeness-style.

5. “Not right now.”

Most of us lead busy lives and it’s not always possible to drop what you’re doing and listen to your husband’s work story, or take your mother’s call. Nevertheless, being engaged with those you want to be close to on a consistent basis is extremely important and the phrase “not right now” without any follow-up fosters a feeling of rejection.

Alternative: If you’re engrossed in something at the moment your partner wants to engage, try replacing “not right now” with a request for a specific amount of time. “I just need 20 minutes on this and then I’d love to listen,” elicits a totally different feeling from “not right now.”


If you would like help with your relationship, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.