1. Criticism Turn Around: Try to state your complaint without blame. Let your partner know that you are hurt or disappointed about a behavior reaction or the way something was handled rather than a personal attack. Avoid making it their fault, and avoid absolutes like you “always” and you “never.” Skill: Use open language. “When you ______ I feel or react _______.” I statement can remove blame and help you identify what specifically bothers you and why. Asking yourself the why and how before approaching you partner.
2. Defensiveness Turn Around: The problem with defensiveness is that it doesn’t allow you to see your role in a problem and it’s hurtful for the other person who feels like they are not being heard. Take responsibility and be accountable. If your partner lets you know that something you do bothers them, consider if they might be right and look for your part in the problem. Skill: Consider their perspective, your perspective and other contributing factors such as old experiences that feel the same either with your partner or old experiences from early life. Soft start-ups are helpful. Disengage until you are able to be in upstairs brain rather than reacting in downstairs brain let the partner know rather than walking away.
3. Contempt Turn Around: Instead of focusing on all the things that you don’t like about your partner, build a culture of appreciation in which you focus on what your partner adds to the relationship. Skill: Gratitude builds resiliency in your brain, expands your ability to stay in your upstairs brain, engaging your prefrontal cortex and utilizing creative problem solving. If you are feeling contemptuous, perhaps you just need to take a moment to imagine what your life would be like if you’d never met your partner. Shift to happier times and memories to help you reframe how this disagreement or situation. Kindness and appreciation are the glue that can hold things together when internal and external contributing factors are overwhelming or too taxing to manage in the moment.
4. Stonewalling Turn Around: Instead of disengaging as a response to being overwhelmed, try letting your partner know that you need to take some time to calm down and plan to return to the conversation when you feel more relaxed. Skill: Titration break things into small manageable parts or prioritize what needs to be done first etc. (Example: Liquid detergent in the sink over flowing. If you keep the water running it expands. However, turn the water on and off titrating the bubbles eventually will go down the sink. Frustration, anger, emotional dysregulation is the same concept.)
Perspectives/Areas to Improve:
Personality Attacked (Attack problems not each other, skill building. Explore ways to approach from a win-win perspective)
I feel Unliked/Unheard/Unwanted by my Partner (Learn to not internalize when in your partner is in downstairs brain/ come back with each world view, validate your partners feelings, use active listening so you can respond back that you see, hear, or understand their perspective and then yours, and finally problem solve from the same page.)
Responsible (Be accountable for your own stuff, consider how “I” contributed/plus internal/external contributing factors before making assumptions. Both partners may not have all the information without deeper discussions. Most miscommunication is assumptions or not having all the facts.
Mature Emotional Responses (Soft startups, kindness and consideration, knowing when each other have old wounds/train and respond rather than react)
Points out Flaws (Soft startups, behaviors, reactions, and approach is the issue. That feels like ___ to me when you _____. Expressing why and how rather than attacking. Then asking for what you want or what you wish could happen, how you envisioned the day going, etc.)
Controlled (Compromise and remember the problem isn’t the problem, what are the underlying issues, feelings, previous experiences, what does that mean to me and to my partner?)
Blamed (Attack Problems not each other, approach, timing, translation game, and analogies help partners understand each other’s world view, see multiple perspectives)
Self-Focused (Always consider your partners feelings and needs when you are considering your own, looking for a win- win, consideration goes a long way)
Stifled (Balance in life and in a healthy relationship, find solutions after understanding each other’s needs, compromise and be willing to consider your partner’s needs may vary from you, deposit love languages. Compromising and negotiating in a healthy partnership. Example: I am willing to ____ if you would be willing to ______. Sometimes we have to take one for the team.)
Manipulation/ Emotional/Passive-Aggressive (Chaos/Control are underlying issues and emotional styles that are learned, shift towards 5 love languages, Family history, prior experiences, modeling, Sharing the how and why you came to that conclusion, perspective, worldview and understanding while accepting your partner’s is different and you may not agree.)
Feel Disrespected (Soft start up and repair, develop a new emotional and communication map, increase fondness and admiration with positive reinforcement)
Hurt/ Shut Down/Escape (Emotional engagement and loneliness result shift this cycle, plus family history)
Low Effort to Change (Startups, upstairs, downstairs brain, increased personal and partner awareness with new skills develop new patterns, change automatically shifts when the rescuer vs withdrawer disengages the cycle, recognize when your partner is trying to use new skills, be careful during the transition to assume they are back to old patterns even though it will happen until the new communication habits have fired and wired new neuro connections.)
Disregard for Fundamental Needs (Turning towards your partner and asking for needs, Love mapping, support one another, pointing out things your partner does well and you appreciate)
Conflict is a Trigger that Escalates (Emotional flooding and prior hurts create reaction rather than responding, assuming and cognitive distortions need to be challenged when in upstairs brain, think team, win-win, conflict or challenge is an opportunity to overcome and increase closeness, improving your relationship, emotional connection, intimacy, trust, compromise, meeting one another needs with respect and kindness above all.)
Solvable Problems List
Time Together & Recreation (What do you share in common, what interests could you share, bucket list- places you want to go, things you want to try, experiences you want to have, what did you enjoy early on when dating or first married.)
Eat Together more often (Eating together a few nights a week gives a routine and time to check-in to how each other are doing on a deeper level than tasks, scheduling.)
Rediscover each other on a Deeper Level (You and your partner are not the same person as you were when you got married on a regularly quarterly basis if not monthly check into to what’s going on for your partner as he/she should be your best friend, Love mapping questions by John & Julie Gottman are an excellent tool. Spend time with each other’s friends and family to enrich and deepen your relationship and understanding of all the aspects, personality traits, skills, and attributes your partner has.)
Decision Making Together (Discuss when possible if not share the circumstances in detail, then come up with a plan of how you would handle it next time, always have a takeaway from any situation as it promotes growth, trust, and more cohesion in the long game.)
Listening to partners feelings, thoughts, needs (We may all struggle to know what we need to to know what’s missing if we haven’t had good modeling growing up and/or our needs change. If we listen between the lines and to non-verbal cues we can pick up on each other’s habits, thoughts, subliminal messages and work as a team to explore and say yes that was helpful and maybe more this and less of that…Life is an adventure and how we perceive relationships and the world will deeply affect our approach to one another, exploring and problem solving. Have an open mind without judgment and notice was it pleasant or unpleasant, do I want to experience that again or try something else.)
Less time on the phone, tv, gadgets (Research indicates this is a primary factor in disconnection from self and relationships, sexual relations id down compared to previous generations and increasing daily stressors compounding with long-term stressors is taxing on relationships. Finding ways to distribute the tasks, chores between partners and taking a deeper look at how you spend time and what your goals in each area of your life are… Do they match? If not, what are each individual willing to do and as a partnership is this a shift you can make together for cohesion, connection, and a more full and intimate life.)
Expectations vs. Realistic (One partner may have unrealistic expectations discussing what you envision and what to expect is a great way to reduce disappointment.)
Lonely vs. Connected (What makes your partner feel connected, ask specific concrete and measurable things one can do, say, or act while sharing your own. Deeper communication such as your hopes and dreams, goals, what you want out of live, how you see things change as you have new experiences, reconnect and explore these things together for connection. Add some spontaneity to life as it becomes a routine.)
Walking on Eggshells vs. Healthy Expression/Working Through Things (Make a new safe space emotionally to discuss unresolved issues, desires, what you and your partner needs, want or are longing for lean towards one another for needs to be met this requires vulnerability, Therefore, be sure you and your partner are at a 6 or higher on your own emotional regulation and in a good space to openly discuss difficult topics.