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Catching Your Partner in the Wrong

You feel yourself tighten in anger and hurt, your partner is saying or doing that thing they "always" do.  The anger in your chest moves up and tightens your face and jaw and you hear yourself telling them how what they are doing doesn't work for you.  You launch into all the subtle ways that their words or behavior are wrong.  Some part of you imagines that if they could just see how wrong they are they will be inspired to change and not only that, they will do the right thing.

This idea that if you can prove someone wrong, your needs will not only be valid but also met is one of the most insidious notions in our communal consciousness.  It keeps us in right/wrong consciousness rather than in a consciousness in which everyone's needs can be met.

It's no wonder then, that you see yourself playing this out in your partnership. Your relationship is precious to you and how your partner sees you is an important part of your relationship.  So when you perceive a threat to that precious connection, you react strongly with the strategy that's been modeled the most - make the other person wrong.

Moving out of this habit isn't just about knowing what else to do, it's about trusting another way.  In the practice of Compassionate Communication you are learning many skills, but most importantly you are learning to trust that your needs and the needs of others' can be met through shared honor and understanding.

This starts with naming and honoring your own needs.  When your partner is doing or saying something that doesn't work for you, keep your attention with yourself and what you are needing rather than what your partner is doing "wrong".

Let's imagine a scenario in which your partner starts to tell you how to drive and how you should have taken this other route and if you had you wouldn't be running late.  You feel the irritation rise and the impulse to defend or attack is like the tension of a drawn bow and arrow.  Before you release the bow, you say to yourself, "This won't help.  Releasing the arrow of my defense or attack will only create more pain and distance.  What do I really want right now?" 

Your partner may or may not have continued talking while you checked in with yourself.  Either way, you come out and take a risk by sharing what you want.  You might say something like, "I am hoping for some support right now.  Would you be willing to tell me if there is a part of you that knows that I am doing the best I can?"

Staying with yourself and expressing your needs, sometimes means completely letting go of responding to the content of what the other person said.  Connecting honestly from the heart doesn't necessarily include adhering to polite conventions.  As you experience the benefits trusting this new way of responding, you realize that staying aware of yourself is absolutely vital to creating the connection and clarity you long for in your relationships.

This week, notice when your attention moves to what's wrong with someone else and what they should or shouldn't be doing.  Experiment with bringing your attention back to yourself.  Notice your experience and ask yourself what you are really wanting.

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Working too hard at Listening?
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Building Trust


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