As you’re moving about your day and accomplishing tasks as a team, you’re likely interacting a great deal with your partner. Maybe he/she asks you a lot of questions, or maybe it seems like they are not paying attention at all. Perhaps your partner is going behind and correcting things you’ve just done, or did the opposite of what you asked. These are various scenarios that could lay the foundation for a big fight to take place. This whole scene could have played out in the same ways before, but for some reason today it’s different. You’re feeling on edge and you might explode at any minute.
Does it seem like there are times when everything your partner says or does annoys you? Do you dread the next thing they’ll say because you know it will irritate you? This happens even to the best of couples. I actually think it’s a good opportunity to stop and reevaluate things in your relationship. It could be a sign that you both need to work on some things. So please, don’t ignore when this is going on. Use it to make improvements. Here are some ways that you can cope and move forward when every little thing is starting to get under your skin.
Check in with yourself: Before you go off on your partner for asking that one last question about putting away the laundry, check in with yourself. Is there something going on with you that is putting you on edge or lowering your tolerance? If you’re about to lose your patience, you will likely find that the reason has more to do with you and your emotions that what your partner is actually doing. Get in touch with what’s happening with you and reevaluate the situation.
Take a breath: Slow down and take a breath before you launch into an argument and say something you will regret. If something your partner is doing is really bothering you and you need them to do it differently, you’ll want to be able to communicate that in an effective and non-threatening way. In other words, you want to say what you mean without getting into a conflict. Pause, formulate your thoughts, watch your tone of voice, and then say what you want to say.
Be aware of non-verbals: What is your tone of voice communicating? How many times did you roll your eyes or make noise under your breath? As the old cliché goes, 90% of communication is non-verbal. Pay attention to what you’re doing to convey your feelings and how that may set the conversation up for failure. Sighing, eye rolling, groaning, or getting an attitude is not going to help anything.
Don’t get defensive: If you partner notices that you are getting annoyed or irritable, they may call you out on it. Don’t get defensive because the truth is you were annoyed by him/her, and in some way you’ve communicated that. Go back to step 1 and check in with yourself, take ownership of your feelings, and talk to your partner about what’s going on in that moment. If you meet the situation with defensiveness, the entire thing can escalate quickly.
There will be times in your relationship when your partner is frustrating you. That’s ok. Cut yourself some slack and try not to feel bad about getting exasperated. The key is to recognize when this is happening, and make efforts to change the situation. Don’t allow it to escalate to a fight or get involved in conflict, but instead understand why this is going on and what you can do to change it. By stopping arguments before they start, you will be on the road to uncovering how amazing your relationship can be.
For more information about how to deal with conflict, download your free copy of my Rules for Fair Fighting here.