Yikes! You're seriously hurting your relationship!
There are two things that you probably do all the time, but you don’t realize that it undermines your relationship. You end up hurting your partner and ruining trust... but you don’t even realize you’re doing it.
1. Offering your unsolicited suggestions and advice
You’ve been here before. Your partner comes home and tells you about a fight they had with a co-worker at the office. Without being asked, you dive right in and start offering your "helpful" suggestions: "Just avoid him in the future!", "Did you tell your boss what happened?", or "What you really need to do is ...".
In response, your partner shoots down all your suggestions and is clearly pissed at you. Then you get pissed in return and you’re both left feeling annoyed and not taken care of.
When you offer your partner your skillful advice, you're basically telling the one you love that you’re smarter and more capable than them. Instead of being helpful, the message ends up being "You're stupid and I'm superior."
I’m sure that’s not your intention (most the time), but that is what comes across because your partner didn’t even ask for your advice! You just felt like sharing your brilliance and your ego felt slighted when your partner didn't validate your ideas. Now you've made their situation all about you.
Bottom line is: Offering opinions or advice your partner did not ask for isn't helpful, so why are you doing it?
2. Criticizing and nitpicking
Criticizing never, ever, ever helps. (Ever!) Think about how you feel when your partner criticizes you. Does it help? Do you ever change your way or feel positive, happy or more in love after being criticized? Criticizing creates contempt, one of the main predictors of divorce.
You might be thinking right now, Well, if I can’t offer suggestions, give advice or criticize, what’s left?
That’s a good question. And, ironically, that’s just what I want you to do — Ask questions.
Instead of assuming your point of view is 100 percent accurate, I want you to ask your partner: "What do you think that means?”", "How can I help you with this?", "What do you think your/our next steps should be?", and "What did you think I meant by what I just said?"
Life is usually better when you ask more questions and make fewer statements.
Next time your partner faces a challenging situation or had a hard day, try to only ask questions. (Note: This is an amazing exercise to do with anyone in your life: sister, boss, father, etc).
It takes some restraint, energy and thought, but it gives you a whole new perspective on a situation.
When you pause to see how these two toxic behaviors come across to your partner, you quickly realize that a lot of what you say in your relationship is about getting your agenda heard, as opposed to really listening and communicating as a couple.
In the end, it's really about listening well, helping your partner on their terms, and focusing less on yourself during their difficult moments.
Dr. Abby Medcalf is a relationship mover and motivational speaker who has been helping individuals and couples create happy, connected and fulfilled relationships for 25 years. Download the Collaborative Sheet now and get more free tools and strategies at www.abbymedcalf.com.