It happened. Your spouse has done something that makes you angry. No, furious. They’ve made you furious! Your blood is boiling and you’re about to blow your top. But wait. Will that really get the results you seek? Has it worked in the past? Probably not. You know that your angry outburst in the past immediately flooded your spouse with emotions and they either attacked back or shut down. Neither response helped. There has to be a better way.
Breath. Calm down. Think. Perhaps if you approach the situation calmly, things will turn out differently. In fact, when it comes to this kind of interaction, it ends like it begins. If you offer an objective description of what aroused your anger it might elicit a different response, a greater possibility of change. So, start with a calm description of objective facts and the emotions you felt in response to those facts. Oh, look. They look somewhat surprised at how calm you are; and, they’re listening. They’re not getting defensive or shutting down or blaming in response. They’re simply paying attention and listening. That’s nice…good. What now?
Now focus on the behavior you desire from them. Don’t get stuck on what you think they did wrong. If you dwell on past mistakes or behaviors you don’t like, they’ll feel the need to defend themselves and cast blame elsewhere. Move on to what you desire instead. Give them a solution. Give them a way out. Clearly and specifically make the request of what they could do to help you. After all, they love you and want you to be happier. They want a deeper relationship with you. Let them know, clearly and calmly, what they could do to help you draw closer to them. Yes! They’re nodding their head in agreement.
Now open up and be a little vulnerable. Explain why this change in behavior would mean so much to you. Let them know something about your deeper motivations, the reason for requesting this change from them. Maybe your deeper need is one of security and this change will make you feel more secure. Maybe it’s a need for more affection because of personality or childhood experiences. Whatever the reason, open up and tell them about your need. Then make your request again, adding that this change in their behavior will help you. They’re looking closely at you now. You can tell they feel closer to you…and you realize you feel closer to them. Being vulnerable has brought you closer together. “Yes, I will work on making this change for you. I love you.” That’s exactly what you wanted to hear. Hug and enjoy one another’s presence for a moment. Express your gratitude. “Thank you for listening and being willing to work on this with me. Thank you.”
One last thing to do. Every time you see your spouse make an effort to do what you requested, thank them. Let them know you see their effort by acknowledging it. Knowing you recognize their effort will encourage them to continue making the effort to change. And isn’t that what you really wanted when you were about to blow you top?