When your spouse or partner does something to annoy you, it's easy to bring up the topic in a way that suggests blame. Even if they are at fault, that approach often leads to a fight. To avoid arguing, try telling your spouse what you want instead of just airing your grievances. Photo by Akuppa John Wigham.
My couples counsellor suggests a lot of great relationship tips, and this is one of my favourites because it saves a lot of time and headache. When we're annoyed at our partners (or even our friends or family), we usually confront them like this:
- "Why didn't you do the dishes?"
- "You need to ask me before inviting our friends over."
- "Can you stop leaving your dirty socks in the living room?"
All of those approaches get the point across, but they're also a little passive aggressive. Usually, we approach the conversation this way because we're upset and we need to vent. And it's OK to air your grievances, but being passive aggressive about it only makes the other person defensive. In short, it's a bad habit that kills solid communication.
Instead, next time you have a gripe with your partner, start the conversation with, "I would like." For example:
- "I'd like you to ask me before inviting people over."
- "I'd like you to do the dishes tonight."
- "I'd like you to put your socks in the laundry."
Actually, my counsellor suggests starting the conversation with "I want", but if you're worried about sounding too demanding, "I would like" works just as well. The idea is simply to focus on a solution and reframe the conversation as a request rather than a complaint. I've been trying it in my own relationship, and it works incredibly well.
It works because you're not starting the conversation as a conflict. In fact, you're asking your partner for help and, generally speaking, we want to help our loved ones. So not only does this simple approach fend off arguments, it also promotes expressing affection.