You’re annoyed. It’s your sweetheart’s fault. Sometimes, just as you’re about to open your mouth, you hear that little voice, that aggravatingly-always-right little voice, that says, “Keep it zipped.” Ignoring that voice (aka your intuition) will get you into trouble every time. It pays to listen. But what if that little voice stays silent? How do you know when to speak up and when to keep it zipped?
You’re conflicted. Your sweetheart wants to do something that’s perfectly reasonable, perhaps even thoughtful, but you want something else or wish your sweetheart would behave differently. Do you tell your sweetie or do you keep it zipped?
You’re hurt, angry or disappointed. How do you know if you should suffer in silence or speak up?
The test is this: If speaking up will help your sweetheart be a more responsive partner and, therefore, enhance your emotional intimacy, then speak up. If not, keep it zipped. Let me elaborate:
My hubby Dale is a great guy in a zillion ways and I adore him. Yet there are times when what he does makes me want to scream. Examples:
* We’re running dangerously close to being late and he drives below the speed limit.
* He takes the trash out in 30º weather and leaves the door open because he’s coming back in a minute.
* We visit the concession stand before the movie, he chooses to get nothing, then throughout the movie “shares” my popcorn and coke.
Would Dale be a more responsive partner by driving a little faster, closing the door completely, or keeping his mitts out of my popcorn? Nope. Best to keep it zipped.
Another example: I recently made the decision to euthanize Sophie the kitty whose health had failed her. She and I had been together 15 years, longer than I've been with Dale. The vet agreed to do the procedure at our home. Although Sophie was “my” cat, Dale loved her, too. He wanted to be there to help comfort Sophie and, more importantly, to comfort me at the moment of her departure. Because I didn’t want Dale to feel left out or rejected, I hesitated to tell him that what I wanted was to be alone with Sophie, to have a private love fest, then hold her as she left. I asked myself if speaking up would help Dale be the responsive partner he wants to be, and the answer was yes. He wanted what would make it easiest for me. I spoke up.
Knowing when to speak up is half the battle. The other half is doing so constructively. When we’re bummed about something our sweetheart has said or done, knee jerk responses, complaining, nagging, criticism, and pouting with heavy sighs, are heard as and are as effective as “blah-blah-blah.” Such responses also play havoc with emotional intimacy. Before you lash out or give your sweetheart a piece of your mind, ask yourself if what you’re about to say is unqualifiedly constructive. Are you giving your sweetie information that will help him or her be a more responsive partner? If not, keep it zipped until you’ve cooled down and are able to rephrase what you want to say in a constructive way.
Helping your partner be more responsive is the best gift you can give to your partner. And to yourself.