This post may be triggering if you have been hurt emotionally by your partner.
Getting hurt emotionally by a partner creates distance in intimacy. If you have been in a committed relationship with a partner for long at all, I bet that at some point you have gotten hurt. Please hang with me on this post because I want us to get a little vulnerable. I promise to offer some tips for clearing the air as well.
What we receive from our partner matters!
For just a second, think back to your last conflict with your partner. What did you hear from your partner? What did your partner mean by what was said? With my wife’s permission, this is a dialogue that we had not too long ago:
Me: These kids have such a bad attitude when they have too much screen time. We have got to set and enforce some boundaries around this.
Wife: I am doing the best I can. You don’t have any idea what kind of day I have had while you were at work.
Me: All I know is that I is I am frustrated with all the yelling and screaming about who is going to use what device. This is a ridiculous thing to fight about.
What I meant:
What She Received:
I wish the kids were more respectful with each other.
Why aren’t you teaching them respect?
We need to enforce our rules around screen time.
You let them have screen time too much!
I am frustrated with the kids.
I think you are a bad parent!
I hurt my wife unintentionally by my words and actions. I was not attuned to what she was receiving from me. The result was a hit to our intimacy in that moment.
Clarifying the motivation de-escalates the situation!
My wife and I have an agreement that we will make every effort to resolve conflict with one another. It may not happen immediately, because sometimes it takes time to get calm enough to make reconciliation possible. We love each other and typically do not set out to hurt one another. Here is an approach that we use that seems to be really helpful.
Wife: When you got so frustrated with the kids fighting over screens earlier, I felt like you didn’t think I was a very good mom. Is this what you were trying to communicate?
**Hold up! Is this a trick question? Nope! She is taking a huge risk here by being vulnerable with me. She is also clarifying my motivation, so she can clearly understand my heart.
Me: No, I think you are a great mom! I know that sometimes they bicker, and it is frustrating to hear them argue about such silly things like who will use what device.
Wife: Yeah, sometimes they argue about silly things. I felt like you don’t think I enforce the boundaries we have set around screen time. This is the first time they have had the devices all day.
Me: Based on what I said, I can see why you would have thought that. I am sorry. I trust that you are enforcing the boundaries that we set. I appreciate the hard work you put in with our kids.
Honest communications results in more trust and intimacy!
When I emotionally hurt my wife on purpose, I usually feel pretty crappy about it. When she tells me that she feels hurt and asks me about my motivation, I feel an immediate gut punch. But, when I acknowledge that I was in the wrong, she is much more likely to believe me when a misunderstanding occurs. My honesty may sting in the moment (for both of us), but humbly taking ownership for my behavior assures her that I value our relationship.
Intimate relationships are hard and when communication is not clear, assumptions get made, and miscommunication drives wedges deeper. When we have freedom to talk about motivation, our relationship feels more secure.
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