I’m reprinting a brief article I received from the Gottman Institute about how to approach your partner with a complaint without the complaint getting experienced as a criticism, or an attack on their character. This “softened startup” is an approach I’ve been advocating for years to couples, but I thought it was very succinctly captured in the Gottman’s article. Here it is:
In the last Marriage Minute, we talked about Criticism, the first of the Four Horsemen. To review, criticism is an attack on your partner’s character or personality, often starting with “you always” or “you never.” Or you can be more direct with criticism: “You are so lazy,” or, “That’s just like you, finding any excuse not to spend time with me.”
Fortunately, it’s reversible.
The antidote to Criticism is what we call The Softened Start-Up.
To soften your start-up means to approach a conversation with how you’re feeling about the situation, not your perception of your partner’s flaws or behavior. There’s a difference between complaints and criticism. A complaint addresses a specific instance or action and acknowledges how it made you feel.
A good formula to remember is:
“I feel [your feeling]”
- left out
“About [the specific behavior, not a pattern of behavior]”
- “when I’m not invited to virtual happy hours with your friends,”
- “when you don’t read the articles I send you,”
- “when we don’t have dinner together.”
“And I need [state the positive need].”
- “to know what your preferred evening schedule looks like and how I can be a part of it,”
- “to feel like you’re interested in the things I care about,”
- “to spend some quality time together this week.”
Practice softening your start-up.
You can even practice together with your partner, giving advice to an imaginary couple who struggles with criticism. For example, how would you soften “You always leave dirty dishes in the sink”?
You can also apply this formula to positive things—”I feel cared for when you check in to see how my day is going!”
In this 15 minute episode I’ll share my insights and experiences with the issue of cheap forgiveness – what it is, and how and when it may be adaptive as the best possible “solution” to emotional injury, vs. what the costs may be to the person bestowing it and to the relationship. I’ll give a mini “life lesson” on the larger issue of forgiveness and what the options may be when an offender isn’t repentant or available to a process of true repair around an emotional injury.
To join the episode live call 877-497-9046 to come on the air with your questions, comments or story. If you can’t make the live podcast you can listen to the recording afterward anytime at: www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager
However you tune in, don’t miss this important episode!
Although tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, not everyone in a marriage will be celebrating. If you are in a marriage and have experienced infidelity or an affair, then you know how painful a close relationship can become. As the hurt spouse you have been robbed of trust, joy, self trust, your history as you’ve known it, a feeling of specialness, and most importantly, any secure sense of the future you had anticipated. Certainly, the romance and promise of Valentine’s Day has been shattered, at least for now.
If your spouse who has had an affair minimizes the circumstances and your response to it, trust that it is a function of their dread of consequences, / their entitlement, / their refusal to take responsibility for their behavior, and certainly their lack of empathy for the impact on you. Get support from a trusted friend, family member, group, and especially, a therapist. Whatever you do, DON’T buy into your spouse’s denial about the seriousness of the situation. Get help, and honor your experience of grief and betrayal as valid. Know that you or you and your spouse are probably ill equipped to go this alone!
Here are two terrific, must-read books I recommend to anyone who has or is currently going through this ordeal. One provides invaluable insights about the process, including the challenges and mandates for the “hurt spouse” as well as the “affair spouse.” The second book, about forgiveness, provides choices for how to move on, and vital repair tools for individuals and couples:
In this thirty minute episode I’ll co-host with Dr. Laura Louis, author of the popular book, “Marital Peace,” which is a valuable resource for supporting couples throughout the challenges of marriage.
Dr. Louis has specialized in helping distant couples heal after infidelity, and in the program discusses some of the ways she recommends rebuilding trust, rekindling intimacy and enhancing communication. Her therapeutic approach has been influenced through trainings in Brazil, Mexico, London and Haiti, as well as hundreds of transformative seminars all over the world.
Don’t miss this vital program if you and your spouse have endured or feel at risk for an affair! Learn some key tools to not only help avoid infidelity, but to restore trust, build forgiveness, and promote growth after an affair. You too can achieve marital peace after this traumatic development.
Call in live with questions or comments at 877-497-9046.
If you can’t make the live show you can listen to the podcast afterward at: www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager
One way or another, I hope you can join us!
If you’re in a marriage or any kind of long term partnership, after the initial rose-colored glow has worn off, you’ve probably had the unpleasant experience of each seeing the same events very differently. Either you remember the “significant” details around the situation differently, or you have alternate realities about who said what, who did what, what was decided or who’s to blame. Sound familiar? If it does, you probably have also experienced some of the unsavory effects of this disconnect – like hostility, mistrust, disappointment, or hurt. If so, unfortunately, you’re in good company with half the planet.
I call this situation the “Battle for The Truth” – as though there were an objective reality or single “truth” to events. The hard thing is that “The Truth” is all about individual perspective, observation and context, so you may already realize that arguing over “The Truth” is usually fruitless.
If you’d like to learn more about how this plays out in relationships, signs it’s happening, long-term effects, and tools to put down your weapons, then tune into a terrific BlogTalk Radio program scheduled for Tuesday, February 2nd at 8PM EST: “The Texas Conflict Coach.” Host Pattie Porter, a famous conflict expert is having me on as her guest. Join us live on the show with questions or comments by calling (347)324-3591. If you can’t make the live show you can hear the recording on BlogTalk Radio at: http://www.texasconflictcoach.com/category/upcoming-shows/
Either way, hope you can join us!