16 April 2019, by Flora Isabelle
(Us circa 2013, newly weds and very much happily in love)
It was 9pm in the evening and I had just put the toddler to bed. I came out of the bedroom, slumped on the couch and gave a loud sigh. Before I could mutter “it’s been a long day…” considering the bubs had a sudden case of viral fever and was battling between cranky and refusing to take his meds despite having high temperatures the entire day, the husband turned to me and asked, “You want ice cream is it?” then proceeded to the kitchen to get me a tall cup of dark chocolate gelato. Mmmmm.
Ice cream has always been a soft spot (for me) and iconic to our relationship. You see, even though we have been together for more than 10 years now, the hubs sometimes tell me that we are heading out for ice cream, then en route to our usual parlour, will drop by the spot where he had asked me to be his girlfriend and well, ask me again if I still want to be with him haha. We also sometimes sneak out for ice cream dates on weekend afternoons without bubs. Sugar keeps me alive when dealing with an overactive toddler haha.
Of course, not all is red and rosy in our relationship. The other day, we had a huuuugggeeeee almost-fight in the middle of a Chinese restaurant simply because the hubs ordered white rice for me.
“I told you I want brown rice!” I hissed.
“No you didn’t. You clearly imagined saying something you didn’t.” he retorted.
“Even if I didn’t, I ALWAYS order brown rice whenever we are here?!?!?!?” I snapped back.
To be fair I was suffering from a severe bout of PMS hence my attitude but it’s no excuse either, I know. Additionally, me being me, just had to bring up all the 1234567 other incidents where he’d clearly forgotten something I said.
I was clearly extremely defensive and me being me, I’ve always felt an extreme need to prove myself right. Is it a woman thing?
I recently came across this article aptly titled 7 tips for communicating with your partner—without being defensive and it really spoke to me. It’s a rather long article and some parts stood out more than others, so here’s my take and summary.
1. Write down what your partner says and any defensiveness you feel.
In essence, this helps you remember what was said when you reflect back what you hear or it’s your turn to speak. Which is true I feel, cause whenever we get embroiled in a disagreement, it’s all about making my point rather than listening to what he has to say too.
2. Be mindful of love and respect.
This particular quote stood out to me,
Remember that the joy you bring each other is more important than this conflict—that working through this together will lead to more joy.
3. Slow down and breathe.
Remember to postpone your agenda and focus on understanding your partner.
4. Hold on to yourself.
Look inward and notice what you’re telling yourself about what this conflict means and how it may impact you. Holding onto yourself also means considering that your partner’s complaint may have truth to it. Sometimes we hold onto a distorted self-portrait.
The last line, SO VERY TRUE.
5. Don’t take your partner’s complaint personally.
Ask yourself, Why am I getting defensive? What am I trying to protect? Your partner’s complaint is about their needs, not yours.
6. Ask for a reframe.
If your partner says something that triggers you, ask them to say it in a different way: “I’m feeling defensive by what you’re saying. Can you please reword your complaint so I can understand your need and explore ways we can meet it?”
7. Push the pause button.
If you notice you’re having trouble focusing as the listener, ask your partner to take a break from the conversation. During this time, focus on the positives of your relationship and do something productive. The article suggests going for a walk.
Lastly, always remember that conflict is a catalyst for understanding and vehicle for personal growth. To give a very good example, it is like an oyster. Oysters don’t intend to make beautiful pearls.Instead, pearls are a byproduct of the oyster reducing irritation created by grains of sand. Likewise, conflict can inadvertently create connection and closeness.
What do you think? Do you have any communication tips to share with me? Let me know in the comments please!