Have you ever found yourself sitting in silence with your partner after a long day, both replaying your last argument? Was it about how one of you felt like most of the load was on his or her shoulders? Is the stress of parenthood mixed with work/life balance taking a toll? Whether it be a change in the household, new work hours, or extra curricular activities, this is common for most partnerships. What can you do to work out these feelings? There are always going to be “Me Vs. You” moments, and if you find yourself in those ruts, these tips may help:
Giving Grace Can Mean a Grace Period
Have you or your partner ever asked each other to complete a task, and one of you replied that you’ll do it “later”? Were either of you upset when it wasn’t completed by the time you expected it to be?
The word “later” might mean different things for each individual. Reminding your partner to complete a task multiple times in a row often feels overwhelming, or might even be given the annoying word “nagging”. A good way to navigate these situations is to ask each other when is a reasonable time to remind one another of a task. Can I remind you in an hour? This evening?
In addition, if one of you has an idea of when the task should be completed, don’t be afraid to suggest your timeline. More often than not, vague details and the lack of sharing expectations up front leads to arguments. Remember, your partner isn’t a mind reader!
Write Down Your Feelings Before Sharing them
This was the advice my aunt gave me when we had our first son. I was sleep deprived and in the new parenthood fog. I felt envious that my husband’s routine was mostly the same with his 9 to 5 job, while I stepped away from mine to care for our son 24/7, for what felt like an eternity. Don’t get me wrong–I loved bonding with our son! But in the midst of hunger, sleep deprivation, and not showering for days on end, I was ready to snap if my husband left his socks on the floor one more time.
My aunt suggested that I write my feelings down throughout the day. Write feelings of joy, frustration, and things that irked me. Before my husband got home, I was to read through my list and figure out which were worth sharing with my husband, versus which things I was upset about in that moment and let go.
Sometimes stepping back and finding the true cause of how you feel can help you bring up the big points, and help you get over the little things that don’t matter. When you direct a spitfire of emotions at your partner in the moment, everything you feel and experience blurs into one, and the root cause is lost. It also helps if you speak more slowly when expressing these feelings, so you can focus on the impact your words have.
Take Time to Reflect Before Apologizing
“Sorry” can be an automatic reply with little feeling behind it. Step away from the argument and take time to reflect. Apologies should not be a band-aid for problems, but an understanding and acknowledgement of how one another feels. Walking away from an argument doesn’t mean you’re walking away from your partner. Don’t continue to huff and give the stink eye when you leave the room. Rather, take the opportunity to reflect, rethink, and ready yourself for a resolution. It doesn’t have to be in 15 minutes, and it can take a day. It also doesn’t mean one person has to be right and one person has to be wrong. Don’t let your reflection time take away from your affection for one another. This time to reflect acknowledges that each party is trying to understand the other. It’s also okay if you come out still not understanding the other person. The key thing is that you’re willing to try.
It Takes Practice
All of these tips will not help overnight. My husband and I find ourselves relapsing to our old arguing habits at least every other time, but we are quicker to apply these tips with each new argument. As we begin to recognize how we communicate with one another, we find less reasons to argue. Are we still going to argue about who had the harder day out of the two? Probably. Will we get mad because one can’t remember to change out the empty toilet paper roll? Yeah, that will probably slip.
But will we be more intentional of how we communicate our feelings? Yes, definitely.
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