Just because our partner does something that causes us to have hard feelings doesn’t mean they did anything wrong. It doesn’t mean that they *have* to change their behavior in order to be a good partner.
The same thing goes for you.
Just because your partner has a difficult reaction to something you do doesn’t mean you did anything wrong, nor that you must change your behavior without discussion to make them more comfortable. I don’t mean that you and your partner should just do whatever you want while the other person suffers. I mean that we can start from a place of taking ownership for our feelings instead of placing responsibility for our feelings on others. This is the number one rule for healthy, mature relationship communication. Realizing this changed my life. Here’s how my life used to look:
When a partner would get jealous or upset in reaction to something I did, I would immediately promise to never do it again, thinking that was the right thing to do. But after months or years of stifling myself, I would eventually feel resentful and pull away. Now, when my partner and I have hurt feelings, we try not to blame or change each other. Instead, we share our difficult emotions without an agenda to solve anything. Our intention is to listen and be with each other in our pain or fear, not to shame or fix each other. It doesn’t always go super smoothly.
Sometimes things will start to feel heated and one of us will have to say out loud, “My intention is to feel more connected to you by sharing this,” or “You didn’t do anything wrong. I’m just noticing some deep stuff coming up around this and I want to look at it with you.”
Ultimately, our conflicts help us feel closer than we did before.
Here are some examples of judging or blaming other people for our negative feelings:
“I judge my partner when he doesn’t want to go to social events.”
“My friend takes up too much space in conversations.”
“My dad is unwilling to try new things. I hate it.”
“I can’t believe my partner wants to sleep with other people. She’s so selfish.”
We all judge each other—even the people we are closest to. That’s because underneath every judgment is a feeling of fear, hurt or inadequacy.
And the people we are most connected to trigger our deepest wounds. Instead of owning our feelings, we tend to point a finger. Judging and blaming others is a form of self-protection. It helps us feel safe...but it gets in the way of closeness. So when you find yourself feeling judgmental of your loved ones, excavate the story you’re telling yourself. Then, share it with them with the intention of feeling more connected.
Here are examples of owning your negative feelings and expressing them with the intention of getting closer:
"Honey, when you don’t want to go to social events, I get scared that you’ll feel abandoned and that I’m being selfish by wanting to go without you. I feel embarrassed asking for this, but can you reassure me that it’s OK for me to go even if you stay home?”
"Friend, I notice that sometimes I feel annoyed when we talk because I have this story that you talk more than me. I think I’m jealous of your ability to open up because it’s something I really struggle with. I would love your support by asking me more questions.”
"Dad, I want to be honest with you about something. I feel frustrated when you’re not willing to try new things because I’m worried that you think I’m frivolous and irresponsible. I would appreciate hearing that you respect me for who I am."
"Babe, when you say you want to sleep with other people, it makes me feel inadequate. Can you reassure me that you love me and are committed to me even though you want that?”
When you vulnerably share your feelings with your loved ones, you invite an empathic response. Instead of seeing a person who’s judging them, they see a person they love who is asking for support. Instead of arguments and bitterness, this leads to connected compromise and closeness. Owning your fears and insecurities is the ticket to authentic intimacy. 💜