4. Get what you want from your partner by NOT telling him/her how you feel. When I went to therapy as an adult, one of the best things I got out of it was that my therapist taught me three things: how to get in touch with my feelings, how to own my feelings and how to express my feelings. I was very proud of mastering the ability to do all three. I especially liked telling my partners how I felt when they upset me. This master skill turned out to be a great formula for short-term relationships.
My therapist never focused on the fact that just because I could now express my feelings that it didn’t mean that my partner would welcome that expression of those feelings. In fact that expression was downright unwelcomed. When I was dating, my "great communication skills" usually lead to the untimely death of that relationship.
Now, as a trained relationship-saving marriage counselor, here’s what I teach my clients to do with their upset feelings: Don’t stuff them, don’t express them to your partner AND don’t deny them. Well, what's left?
Here’s what to do instead:
I. When your partner triggers negative feelings in you, give yourself a time out. If you can’t think of what to say, just say, "I need to take a bathroom break." Remember, it’s not wrong to communicate when you are in negative emotional state. It’s just guaranteed to make things worse between the two of you.
II. When you’re calm, resume contact with your partner and rather than telling them what they did wrong do "positive alternative communication." In other words, with all positive language ask for what you want instead. Positive language is not about ignoring the negative emotion you felt. It just is much more likely to get you the positive responses and change in behavior you’d like to get from your partner--so you don't have to feel that negative emotion again. The Secret To A Happy Marriage?
For example, rather than saying "You're such a jerk. You're so rude and disrespectful to me. When I’m talk to you you’re always texting one of your friends…" Vs. "It's really important to me that when you and I are spending time together that we both turn our phones off and give each other our full attention. Would you be willing to do that?"
You can't have it both ways in the same conversation. You can either get things off your chest, which will most likely to cause your partner to withdraw from you, defend his/her position or verbally attack you OR you can use "positive alternative communication" when you're calm and have a much better chance of getting what you want from them.
—Fred Talisman, Counselor/Therapist