We all do it – in our relationships we say things we wished we’d kept to ourselves.
Sometimes the things we say we don’t really mean. Other times in a rash moment we express inner feelings that we’re not ready to discuss, or we’ve kept from our partner because we know they will hurt.
Researchers have suggested that for our relationship to thrive we need a five-to-one ratio of positive interactions to negative interactions. Scientists in neurobiology say our brains are Velcro for negative remarks and Teflon for those that are positive. One snide comment sticks in our brains (and will be replayed over and over), while compliments and kind gestures count for less.
What does this mean for our relationship? Maybe we need to be proactive about building a cushion of warmth and support so that we can weather the inevitable rough moments. Maybe we need to be mindful of what we say and do if we want to create the conditions in which love can flourish.
Leaving aside the more obvious for one moment — name-calling, lies, threats, ultimatums — psychologist Dr Alexandra Soloman, author of Loving Bravely, has come up with three things we should avoid saying:
‘If you loved me, you would…’ Better to say: ‘I’m having a hard time understanding what’s keeping you from doing this.’
‘Why isn’t it like it used to be between us?’ Instead, ask for what you’d like, right here, right now. ‘I want us to go out on dates like we used to do.’
‘You’re acting just like your mother/father!’ Instead, describe the behaviour your partner is exhibiting and talk about what that stirs up in you. For example: ‘You’re raising your voice a lot right now. When you do that, I feel shut down and frustrated. It makes me want to pull away from you.’
Relationships are hard work. The challenge is to figure out how to work together through the rough patches, instead of against each other. When you feel too angry to work together, says the psychologist, it’s braver to say: ‘I’m going to take a break. I love us too much to say something now that I will regret later.’
If you’d like to talk over things about your relationship in confidence with one of our counsellors give our friendly appointments team a call on 01234 356350.