Are you in a nasty doom loop with your partner? You know the kind where you ask for something, he says he’ll do it, he doesn’t do it right away, and then you keep asking, he calls you a nag, you yell at him, he eventually does it, and you both feel like crap? That one? Or do you really want to ask your partner for something or to have a serious talk yet you find yourself too nervous to do so, so you never do and then you get more and more resentful because you aren’t getting your needs met, and he’s completely not understanding what’s going on, and then one day you just scream at him about something else, he’s pissed off, and you both walk away feeling like crap?
You aren’t alone. I hear it all the time from my clients, friends, family, and my own head. Are you ready to change this miserable pattern of communicating? To officially feel calm and confident about what you have to say and say it in a way that feels good to you and also doesn’t rip out the heart of the person you are talking to? I have three really easy ways to end the communication doom loop that I see with many couples. Once you learn how to do these three things, you will notice a dramatic improvement in your relationship and you can use these same skills with kids, coworkers, and even your parents. So here they are:
1) Know exactly what you want. I mean EXACTLY what you want. If you say, “I want you to turn off the television” but don’t say why, your partner will see it as a controlling move and then his tendency might be to fight it. If you say, “I’d love for us to spend an hour together most nights after dinner without the TV on.” You are asking for something completely different. I hear women tell me that they want their partners to help more around the house, to pay attention to them, to listen better, and to respect them. These are fine ideas but they are vague and may be confusing to your partner. Get specific, get clear, and know exactly what you want from them. Don’t make a list of twenty things, pick one at a time and be as specific as possible about what you want and why you want it. You won’t always get it but at least you can be confident in knowing that you were clear about your desires.
So why is this so hard for many of us to do? The most common reason seems to be that we have come to the conclusion that it’s selfish to ask for things from others. Actually, based on evidence from the doom loop, it’s the exact opposite. Knowing what we want is neither selfish nor spoiled but rather confident and extremely healthy in relationships. When I talk to men about what bothers them most regarding communication with their partner, the majority of them tell me that they don’t really understand what their partner wants from them. This leads to excessive frustration and ultimately, distance in the relationship. If you want to be closer, get clear.
2) Know exactly how to ask for what you want. Here’s the thing, if you ask for something when you are either feeling sorry for yourself or pissed off at your partner, there is no way that you are going to ask in a way that leads to results. You’ve got to dig deep, listen to the words you are saying to yourself, change them, and then ask from a healthy place. If you are saying to yourself, “I never get what I want, it’s always about him, no one cares about me” you will be asking with a whiny, pouty voice that may get you what you want but certainly won’t leave you or him feeling good about you. Is that really what you want, a band-aid? A flimsy one at that?
If you are saying to yourself, “I shouldn’t even have to ask for this, he should know what I want. What’s wrong with him? My girlfriend’s husbands would never act like this.” Then you are guaranteed to ask him with a bitchy tone that will either annoy the heck out of him or put him on the defensive. Neither of which will lead to the two of you walking away feeling great about each other or your relationship. Asking him from a place of calm will guarantee at least a pleasant conversation even if the answer is still no.
3) Manage your response to his response. What? Well here’s the thing, after all of this nice work on your part he may still say no and that’s likely to upset you in some way. Feeling that way would be perfectly reasonable yet if you want to permanently change your pattern of communication and get out of that miserable doom loop, you are going to have to manage your response to his response. If you get aggressive, bitchy, whiny, pouty, or give him the silent treatment, you have just landed yourself in the place you wanted to get out of.
Now is not the time to give up. Hold tight to your calm, confident self, take a deep breath and ask his some well-meaning questions about his response. See if you can get more information from him about why he is saying no. Ask nicely to revisit the topic at another time and do your best to stay civil and connected to him. If your long-term goal is to improve how the two of you communicate and to feel better about yourself when you do so, stay calm and focused on that goal and not on the moment. Change takes time so stick with it. Most likely he will start to make some changes himself and suddenly the two of you will be out of that doom loop and in a much more satisfying relationship.
Lisa Kaplin is a psychologist and life coach at www.smartwomeninspiredlives.com
Ready to dig deeper on the three skills? Lisa will be holding a three week teleclass in May that will help you get solid on how to get out of the doom loop and into a calm, confident you. The class includes the powerful Stuck in Stepford assessment and debrief that will tell you how exactly why you get stuck in the doom loop and exactly what you need to get out of it. Here’s the link to join the class: Group Coaching Teleclass Shoot Lisa an email at Lisa@smartwomeninspiredlives.com for a special Your Tango discount!