So ladies raise your hands if you’re in a relationship with your’s truly, where at times you wish you could strap them to a chair; glue their eyes open, pointed at you and you only (no tv, smart phone, tablet, or some suddenly interesting paper advertisement fallen on the floor), and magically have their ears and all the little inner hearing mechanisms tuned into YOU when you’re asking them of something. AND, to make it an even more perfect image; a strip of duct tape across their mouth (so they can’t answer back). And THEN their brains actually comprehend 100% what you are saying. (I almost feel like doing a Dr Evil laugh mwahaha mwahahhahahaha)
How goooood would that be? To be finally heard, listened to, validated and even your request fulfilled??? PEACE I imagine, for both of you. Peace.
But regardless of the potential peace that could prevail, if your’s truly had: “sponged the tomato sauce dribble off their shirt at the time it happens”; “gotten off the couch and did the thing they said they were going to do 10 zillion years ago”; “not have a beer (or 3) when they get home from work”; “given a helping hand when bubs is crying his lungs out”; “helped make the lunches for the kids”; or [insert issue here], they sit there – motionless and remorseless.
You’ve hit a wall where they shut down and snarl at you for nagging and nit-picking, claiming “I’ve had a big day and need some peace and quiet”; or [insert snarl comment here].
At the end of the day your needs aren’t getting met.
How do you feel? Dissatisfied and resentful.
How do they feel? Defences are up, resistant and possibly resentful too.
Not a happy mix to make for a happy relationship.
I'm afraid, however you may well have a case of “bitch-nag-itis”, and he: “snarly-lazy-ass-itis”.
Being a counsellor I’ve heard this A LOT and I hear how hard it can be. I also see this being one of the biggest causes of relationships going sour. Relationships are complex. You're talking about two human beings with different values, beliefs, backgrounds/history, needs, desires etc and, within any relationship, there are bound to be clashes.
So what are some of your options?
1. Using the 'C' word
To be fair, despite how right we feel about the situation, and the (understandably-so) built up frustration from not having our needs met, the way we communicate it, is often not so great. And yes, it is likely to come out as nagging. Nagging is saying what you want to say, combined with the pent up frustration and a verbal slap. Unfortunately, it’s not received well on the other end and defences WILL come up and you're likely to not be heard.
Try a different approach: Not ignoring the fact that you shouldn't even have to approach your partner to help/listen etc etc in the first place. However, bear in mind that at this point, and if you're relating somewhat to this article, a pattern's most likely been established between you: you're frustrated; he's hunkering down and defences are up. And, until you've been able to properly communicate, the pattern is likely to continue.
Another cause for dissatisfaction is that agreements were not likely made around things from the beginning - even unspoken ones, so there's nothing to be accountable for. What might be the bleeding obvious to you, may not be so for another. I know... it should be just common sense sometimes!
A different approach may look like this: See if you can dig down past the frustration and wanting to strangle the guy, to the place of genuine care. Genuine meaning from the part of you that really does want the relationship to work. Bring a light approach (softness in tone) and arrange a time to talk eg “Honey, I know you just got home from work and you’re tired, can we talk a bit later – say after dinner”? I'm mindful that this may come across as a 50's housewife approach (bring him muffins on a tray, wearing your sexy outfit with an apron on - eugh vomit!) but here, we're just trying to break an established pattern. Be creative!
THEN: use the following formula in whatever order you feel comfortable:
State how you feel (to gain empathy). Avoid using the words "angry/frustrated". Dig deeper and express the pain that is driving the anger (eg hurt, afraid etc)
Explain the situation (to give clarity)
Assert / ask what you want (to get your needs met)
Outline consequences of actions (to gain understanding and empathy, and involve them)
Listen to them as well (there's two of you in this relationship)
Negotiate and find solution (acknowledging both of your needs)
Gain agreement (both on the same page)
Calm/light approach (no anger in voice whatsoever!! – to gain response and respect)
No blaming! (Defences will ALWAYS come up)
State how you genuinely feel (with light approach) + explaining situation:
“Honey, I’ve been feeling so overwhelmed with all the things that need to be done around the house and I often feel alone with it and unsure of when (or if even) you’re going to help me.
"My overwhelm builds up where I soon become frustrated and pester you to get you to help. I don’t want to have to do that, because I can see it gets you frustrated too. We're both angry at eachother which isn't good for both of us, and I care about our relationship.”
Negotiation/finding solution + asking for what you want:
"What can we do so that you don’t feel nagged and I get the help I need?”
"So from hereon you're going to do the laundry on Saturdays and by the end of next week you're going to finish fixing the broken.... etc, and I'm ....."
It’s a general formula and there’s no precise order for it, but it’s important that you consider all the elements.
TIP: Write out what you’re going to say in advance. Practice it. Feel the genuine part of you that cares and wants to find resolution. Make yourself ‘feel’ in your body, the calm/light approach before you talk.
2. Crank it up a bit: So after some time if there's no change then repeat the above but lay out more of your limits. It may sound something like:
"I'm becoming really unhappy in our relationship and still feel unheard. We really need to do something about what's going on, because it may result in our relationship ending...".
But, but, but don't forget to check in with him, there might be a deeper reason (eg depression/anxiety) and a difficulty to express this, which they might need some other help (that would have to be another article to come).
3. Consider counselling: If not for both of you, then for yourself to be able to vent your frustration, and maybe fine-tune your communication skills. You may gain more insight and resolution on other issues in your relationship, or explore other options.
4. Heck… you’re clever, you might even come up with your own options!
5. Ending relationship: I’m not even going to recommend this just yet…. that would be worthy of an entire new article and needs some fleshing out first.
If you (and your partner) follow these guidelins you may break through your unhealthy patterns of communication, and are sure to be on the road to a much more happier and successful relationship.
Do you have a strategy? Let us know in the comments below.
Thanks and see you again soon.
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