Moving Toward The Anger Of My Partner
Why would I want to move toward, or engage, the anger of my partner? For one thing, it lets her know that I take her issue or concern seriously. Ask yourself, what you end up thinking and feeling when you are angry and your partner either changes the subject, avoids you, ignores you, blames you or attacks you. Do you want your partner to engage your concern? How do you feel about their level of concern or caring for you as a partner when his or her first words are to explain, justify, minimize, deny or blame? Or worse yet, if the response is to ignore, change the subject or simply withdraw? Would you want them to address your concern first directly, responsibly and with a sense of empathy and a willingness to be mindful of your experience?
So, what makes you think your partner wants anything different? The very idea that anyone getting even a little angry makes that person the devil is a pernicious and dangerous common perception.
I’ve seen hundreds of couples in which, especially men, seem to think that if they directly engage the anger of their partner; they believe that they are agreeing with the premise that they are bad people with bad intent. They seem to think that taking a complaint or concern seriously somehow admits total guilt and will make things worse.
In fact the exact opposite is true. Again ask yourself what you want when you are upset with your partner. When your partner treats your frustration with the respect of engaging and listening to you; don’t you feel better about him or her? Don’t you feel more cared about? So try when your partner is upset with you, make your first words an effort to acknowledge what is true about your behavior, how it affected the other and commit to being mindful in the future. And, then pay attention to the results! Then, compare these results with how it used to turn out when your first words in response were to explain, defend, deny, avoid or minimize what your partner is upset with about your behavior or decisions.
This moving toward the danger is an unnatural reflex to train in people. My ‘Power & Compassion Couples Communication’ course shows you exactly how to begin engaging the frustration of your partner in such a safe and respectful way, that you will more likely also have a chance to get your partner to hear and engage your experience of the same situation more fully. This only happens if you surrender your right to be heard first and can tolerate listening and engaging the frustrations and irritations of your partner first, before beginning to explain or defend yourself.
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Loving couples argue too!