by Gwen Randall-Young – Couples who are working to improve their relationship sometimes run into a dilemma. There seems to be a fine line between asking for what you need, and criticizing a partner. Add in a little sensitivity on either side, and good intentions can create near disasters. There is a way through this mine field. It has to do with our intentions, and the form our communication takes.
If our intention is to criticize, no matter how carefully we camouflage our comments our partner is likely to respond defensively. The first place to eliminate criticism is in our own consciousness. If we are feeling annoyance, and wish to make a request of a partner, it is best to take some quiet time first. Take a few moments, and list all of the things you appreciate about your partner. Then, put yourself in your partner’s place, and imagine how you would feel if your partner approached you in the way you are wanting to approach him or her. Think about the outcome you are hoping for: is your intent to start a fight, or are you hoping to enjoy the rest of the day together? Even if you are angry, it’s best to save your communication until you have cooled down.
When you are ready to talk to your partner, it is a good idea to start with some positive comments. Then, rather than demanding what you want, say that you have a request, and would like your partner just to think about it. There is a big difference between asking for help with taking out the garbage, cooking meals or looking after the children, and telling a partner that he or she is lazy, and you are the only one doing any work. Even if these criticisms were true, stating them is not likely to bring the results you desire.
It takes patience and maturity to handle differences in a way that will produce effective outcomes. Fortunately, those are options that come with adulthood. It is our choice is whether to use them or not.
Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning Psychotherapist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books or cds, visit www.gwen.ca