Stop Defining Your Relationship By What You DON'T Like
Do You Know What You Really Want?
One of the things that continues to surprise me is realizing how many folks really have no idea what they actually want from their relationship. They don't know what they want it to look like down the road and they really have no idea what they want from their partner on a day-to-day basis.
But what do they know? They know exactly what they don't like. And when they want something to change, they love to let their mate [and sometimes everyone else] know it loud and clear.
While effective communication does include being able to explain what doesn't sit well with you, the only way for your partner to have a clear understanding of what to actually do next time is to offer a clear and reasonable alternative.
You're Already Halfway There
It's like getting in a cab, but instead of telling the driver the exact address you want to go, you only tell them one address you don't want to be dropped off to. How is the driver supposed to know where to take you?
Consider these two complaints:
Her: "I hate it when you use the word 'always' when talking about how frequently I've done something in the past. I've done it a handful of times, at most."
Him: "You really need to stop complaining about your issues the moment I walk through the door."
They both offer a critique, but neither offer a solution or an alternative. Unless your partner could read your mind [which might be flattering to assume, but they can't], you have to fill them in on what it is you would actually expect from them or, like the cab driver, they'll continue to do things the only way they know how.
So I ask you this:
What is it you do want? What do you want your relationship to look like moving forward? How can your mate choose better next time so you're both happy?
And how often do you let your mate in on that bit of info? Doing so could make all the difference in the quality of your relationship from day-to-day.
For example, we can change the criticisms above to something like,
Her: "You know, I love when you express how something I do makes you feel instead of how many times you feel I do it. It helps me understand what bothers you, without making me feel attacked by your judgement of my intentions."
Or in making the second one more effective,
Him:"The best time for you to open up to me about your concerns for the day is after I eat dinner. That gives me time to relax a bit when I get home and rid my mind of the stresses from work for the day, so I can be more receptive to what's on your mind."
See the difference? The initial complaints would've likely lead to a fight or being ignored, while the latter would likely lead your partner to understanding you a bit better and puts them in a position to make the better decision next time around.
Always take the time to provide a solution along with any criticism you dish out. Not only does it make your partner feel more comfortable in receiving the criticism, but it gives you an option to consider next time to so the same thing doesn't happen again.