There are times in just about every relationship where you or your partner are going to let one another down. After all, we’re only human and, despite our best intentions, we make mistakes. The problem arises when it becomes a pattern and you find your partner keeps letting you down over and over. Even if the disappointments are small, if it keeps happening the frustration and hurt can turn into resentment, which in turn puts a relationship at risk. Not great.
What can you do if you’re feeling this way? Dr. Gary Brown, a prominent couples therapist in Los Angeles, tells Elite Daily it’s time to speak up and let your partner know how you are feeling. "You are responsible for communicating your needs. Your partner is not responsible for reading your mind," he stresses. That being said, Dr. Brown adds that it’s not your job to "fix" your partner, just to let them know what you need. "Your partner is responsible for what changes, if any, they are going to make. Not you," he explains.
Emmy Crouter, a psychotherapist at Emboldened Counseling in Denver, agrees that it’s important to give your partner a heads up about how you are feeling before you become resentful, because it’s possible they may not even know they are letting you down. "It’s important to bring this to light, as they may actually not be aware of your feelings. Especially if you frequently feel let down by your partner, it’s important to bring it this to light," she tells Elite Daily. "Often when we avoid our feelings or expression of feelings, they can fester and grow into resentment, which can do damage in the long term."
If this is all sounding familiar, here is how the experts say to discuss the issue with your SO.
How To Prepare For The Conversation.
When you’re mentally preparing to talk to your partner about how you are feeling, Dr. Brown says it’s best to start by focusing on one or two behaviors that represent the pattern of disappointment for you. “Hitting them with a long list of gripes is likely going to overwhelm them,” he advises. “Condemning your partner is only going to stiffen their resistance and their defenses. In turn, this will actually diminish the chances of you getting what you need.”
Also, instead of using accusatory language with your partner, Crouter says to lead with the emotional impact the behavior is having on you. “Think about how you can express your feelings without criticism. Using ‘I’ statements is a tried and true way to express how someone’s actions impact you,” she suggests. “It’s important to keep in mind that we have no way of knowing exactly another’s thoughts or feelings unless we get an honest report from them directly. Go into the conversation with curiosity, rather than assumptions or criticism.”
Timing Is Everything.
If you want to improve your chances of the conversation being successful, Dr.
Brown says it’s all about picking a time when your partner is going to be most able to give you their full attention and be receptive. “The best times for most couples is usually after dinner but well before bed, and the weekends when you both have more time to process what is being discussed,” he suggests.
Also, pay attention to your partner’s mood. Are they already stressed out or distracted? If so, Crouter says to wait until a more optimal time. “Try bringing up your feelings when each of you are relaxed and have time to discuss the topic. You might say, ‘hey, there’s something weighing on me and I’d like to tell you about it so that we might work on it together.’ This invites your partner to join you in problem-solving, rather than attacking them,” she advises.
Keep An Open Mind.
Ideally, when you talk to your partner about how they are letting you down, they will be open and willing to receive it. The same should be true for you, the experts agree. “Rather than asking for them to change their behavior right away, try to understand their side or reasoning for their actions. You may gain insight and empathy into their experience,” says Crouter. “At the same time, it’s great to ask for what you need. Just be prepared that your partner may give this in a way that doesn’t look exactly how you want. Relationships are about meeting each other’s needs in a way that works for both parties.”
“Try a more friendly approach by describing what it is specifically that you are wanting,” adds Dr. Brown. “Share your vision of what your ideal relationship would look like, without judging or blaming them. Simply own your wishes, dreams, hopes, and desires. Again, not all at once. Start with one or two things and then describe in as much detail what it is that they could do or say that would have meaning for you.”
Hopefully your partner will hear you out and make the changes they need to break the habit of letting you down. Again, people are not perfect, so Dr. Brown say the most important thing to consider is if they are meeting your most important needs. “If you aren’t getting your core basic needs for love, affection, mutual interest, kindness, and communication then that is another story. If, at the end of the day, your partner is not devoted to your basic needs over time, then you may need to strongly consider leaving as they are likely not going to change,” he warns.
Hopefully you can work through your issues together before it reaches that point, says Crouter. “It’s on both parties to work on the relationship. If you ask for changes, you should be ready to make some yourself. Change takes time and often happens with positive reinforcement rather than shaming and blaming,” she concludes. Setting boundaries and having challenging conversations with your partner can be hard, but for the right relationship it’s totally worth it.
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