How do you respond to your partner when you disagree with what he/she has told you? What if your spouse does something that you don’t like? Do you yell? Give them the silent treatment? Or find ways to punish your spouse?
Let’s say you have a spouse who is always running late. You are planning to have dinner at a friend’s house so you tell your spouse you want to leave at 5:30, knowing that it will most likely be 6:00 before you actually get out the door, which will still get you to your friend’s house on time. Then your spouse is running extra late and it is 6:15 before you get going. What would you do? Calmly call your friend to say you may be a few minutes late? Just arrive late without calling? Make your spouse call and apologize, taking full responsibility? Yell at your spouse the entire ride? Give him/her the silent treatment for the rest of the night? Or maybe just pout during the car ride and act as though things are fine when you arrive at your friend’s house? Do you threaten to not go to his/her mother’s house tomorrow as punishment?
The response we offer when we disagree or when we are frustrated can have a big impact on the relationship. Recognizing our typical patterns is the first step in deciding how we are impacting the relationship. Think of the last few disagreements and look at how you responded. Examine what you were hoping would happen as a result of your behaviors. For example, did you give the silent treatment for a day in hopes that your spouse “would learn their lesson?” If so, did it work?
Think about how effective your responses are. Does it help or hurt the relationship? Does it foster more open communication and help build respect and trust? Or does it seem to put a bigger wedge between the two of you? Learning how to react in ways that can help the relationship can make a big difference in how conflict is handled. Try to find ways to handle conflict that can help improve the relationship. Ask your partner what he/she perceives you when you are upset. Talk to your spouse about what you could do that would be even more helpful.