Relationship Habits

How To Confront Your Partner (1 MUST USE TACTIC)

how to confront

You want your partner to be happy but you have something you have to get off your chest.  Something that you must say.  You think about how to confront the person you love without hurting them in the process or causing an argument.

Of course, you love your partner but they aren’t perfect (but neither are you, right?).  You wish that they were but ultimately you realize that it’s completely unrealistic and might also make for a pretty dull relationship.

Let’s get something straight, love makes us act like crazy fools sometimes.

Don’t you think?

2 pigeons in love snuggling up to each other in front of the Eiffel Tower
I love you and I’ll never ever ever ever do anything to hurt you. EVER!

You might find yourself reading into every little thing that say and wondering what it could possibly mean that they didn’t want a cup of tea?  Is that some form of rejection? Am I THE TEA?!

In complete seriousness, no matter how grounded we feel in our relationships there will always undoubtedly be times of miscommunication.

Relationships are hard work and we often forget the graft, pain and struggle we put ourselves through all in the name of love.  Why the hell do we do this to ourselves?

Because when we find it, we know that it’s totally worth it.

Days of joy are filled with rainbows and buttercups, dancing fairies and glitter galore but the days that are difficult can feel excruciating.  All we want is a happy relationship with a happy partner who makes us happy and is happy to be with us.

So when the need for a difficult conversation rears its head, those of us with a greater sense of awareness might wonder how to confront them without attacking them?

How do I get clarity over what I’m thinking and how I’m feeling before I go all guns blazing at them?

Firstly, you have to lean in to the difficult conversation and no, this is not the must know tactic of which I speak.

Why are conversations difficult?

Why do we fear conflict, arguments or overreactions?  We worry about all of these things because what we have to say is really important. It must be said and it must be discussed.

Your body is telling you that something just isn’t sitting quite right, you NEED to gain some clarity and the greatest form of anxiety relief in this situation is to finally get it off your chest.

20 year old Emma used to avoid confrontation like the plague because, well, it’s bloody uncomfortable.

a lady lies flat across the top of a wooden table to show how uncomfortable it can be to confront your partner
Even more uncomfortable than this. No, seriously.

Unfortunately this ultimately caused the collapse of my first long term relationship.  Sure, there were other factors involved but the truth is, my resistance toward difficult conversations meant that nothing was able to be resolved.

We weren’t able to help one another and we quickly catapulted into different directions.

I would wonder about how to confront my previous partner without hurting his feelings but guess what? YOU WILL HURT THEIR FEELINGS in all likelihood and that’s something worth realizing now and accepting.

Being willing to hurt your partners feelings is a healthy relationship habit that is often dismissed as being toxic.

Internal dialogue such as:

‘Keep them happy’

‘Don’t rock the boat’

‘Swallow your feelings’

…are hugely detrimental to the overall health of your relationship and will cause more psychological damage than you could ever truly know. Seriously, you will drive yourself insane and end up resenting your partner.

Confrontation = RESOLUTIONS is ‘Reason #2’ in my e-book 3 Reasons To Live In The Uncomfortable and How It Will Change Your Life.  You can download below or jump over to read the full article (I should warn you, it’s pretty hefty and completely worth it!)

HOW TO CONFRONT YOUR PARTNER

Here it goes.

Try using the magic line…’I’m making up a story in my head that…

Someone reads a book in the darkness surrounded by fairy light so they can see
It’s story time!

It’s not possible that it could be that simple?  Here me out.  The truth is healthy communication with our partners is essential to the strength and longevity of our relationships.  Difficult discussions must be had so the question is, how are you going to have them?

This simple sentence was discussed between Tim Ferriss and Jim Dethmer on the Tim Ferriss show podcast.  It made for the smallest amount of air time among this 2 hour + discussion but it really struck a chord with me.

(Listen here if it tickles your fancy)

As someone who has leapt from an anxious attachment type to a secure attachment type in the eyes of attachment theory (and yes, I do believe this to be true) it is tactics like this which have completely altered how I communicate and prioritize my relationship in life.

Why will this help you with how to confront your partner?

Imagine this scenario (or perhaps, like me, you’ve lived it)…

Your partner comes home one evening after work and seems distant.  They give you a peck on the lips and mumble a ‘hello’ before disappearing onto the couch as you cook dinner or poor some wine.  You realize that you haven’t actually heard from them all day which is unusual.

You ask if they are OK and the reply, half-heartedly ‘Yeah’.

Something isn’t right here.

You give them their space and you think about what could possibly be going on and suddenly remember that the previous night you made a dig about their parents coming to visit.  You thought it was all in jest but now you think about it, they didn’t laugh with you.

Now you’re wondering, ‘Oh no, did I really upset them last night? Are they angry with me?’

Instead of heading straight in there you sit and perpetuate.  You blow everything out of proportion and misremember the event of the previous evening, adding little tweaks to confirm that what you’re thinking is true.

This is where the magic sentence comes in and how to confront them without blame.

The sentence…. ‘I’m making up a story in my head that…’ allows you to approach a topic, a worry or fear that you have without attacking your partner.  Rather than making ASSUMPTIONS (naughty you, never do this) or jumping on the defensive, you’re explaining how you feel and what you’re thinking and asking them to confirm whether you are correct.

A blaming or defensive approach based on an assumption might look like this –

‘Look if you’re angry over what I said about your parents then you need to lighten up. If they weren’t so judgemental then I wouldn’t have a problem with them visiting but you don’t tell them when they’re doing it so nothing ever changes’

OR

‘I don’t think you should be so moody about what I said last night, it was a joke. Get over it’

OR

‘If I’ve pissed you off I’m sorry but YOU joke about my family all the time so why isn’t it ok for me to joke about yours?!’

With all of these examples the assumption is made that person A (the assuming partner) has upset partner B (the person who is upset and distant).  Upon this assumption they might jump on the defensive ‘I’m sorry BUT…’ or blame the other person ‘…it’s because you don’t tell them so nothing ever changes.

Like the rest of us, you rile yourself up ready for an argument and rather than find out whether what you believe to be true is actually correct, you’d rather make sure that you take the first jab.

a scene of two martial artists fighting to signify what it's like to get ready to argue with your partner
How bad you imagine this argument could be…

Hey, you’re not alone.  We all do this because us humans don’t like feeling as though we are in the wrong.  We don’t find it easy to apologize and ultimately we don’t like knowing that we’ve hurt the person we love.

So what’s the easiest thing to do? Scream at them that none of this is our fault and we love them so STOP BEING STUPID!

Imagine the above scenario instead went something like this…

Scenario plays out just as above but this time partner A sits next to partner B and says…

‘I’m making up a story in my head that I actually upset you last night with the comment I made about your parents and now you’re angry with me, is that correct?’

And this can go one of two ways.  Perhaps partner B will confirm that yes, that is in fact the problem in which case partner A can continue with this style of non-violent communicaton and admit they were in the wrong. 

Marshall B. Rosenberg's method for non-violent communication in the form of an infograph
Method of non- violent communication

They give a full apology, as they should, and click the reset button.

Or situation number 2, which is more often the case, is that partner B tells partner A that they are being completely ridiculous. They apologize for not contacting them much today and couldn’t care less about the comment surrounding their parents.

However, they got into work this morning and the boss explained that they need to let go of some people so they are concerned that their career is in jeopardy.

Ensue conversation surrounding the ACTUAL problem.

THE IMPORTANCE OF REMOVING ASSUMPTION AND BLAME

The reason this works so well is because it removes BLAME from the conversation.  It removes ASSUMPTION and it can relieve any relationship tension and anxiety quickly.

This simple statement has got my relationship back on track quickly and often because it eliminates all of the fluff.

It allows you to get to the heart of the problem WITHOUT the need for that dreaded confrontation that we all like to avoid.  Unless you are of course particularly drawn to the art of conflict – then by all means, proceed how you will.

The biggest struggle where relationship communication is concerned reveals itself when we allow ourselves to believe that what we’re thinking must be true.  Here’s the problem, you haven’t fact checked.

With this simple sentence you explain to your partner clearly that this is what I am thinking, this is why I am thinking it and I don’t know if it is true or not so can you please clarify and confirm it for me.

It’s pure MAGIC!

students standing around a cauldron cooking up a spell to suggest that this tactic is pure magic
Not like Harry Potter magic. Like, REAL MAGIC!

CONFRONTING WITHOUT ATTACKING

As mentioned above, we don’t like admitting wrong-doing.  It’s painful for us to imagine that our words or actions could cause upset or conflict because ideally, in a solid relationship, we want to be there to support the other person.  Not make them feel like shit.

In moments like these where we receive those little cues and signals from our significant other that something is just a bit ‘off’ and they aren’t so quick to discuss the reasons why, it’s easy to assume it’s something that we have done.

And in this situation our brains are very good at FINDING those little tiny nothing moments that they can contort to confirm our feeling that yes, we have definitely done something wrong.

Even when our intuition is CORRECT (and a lot of the time it can be anything but) it is important to remove blame from the equation.  When people blame others it is because they struggle to take responsibility for their action.

Blame is used so they can avoid giving an apology because that would mean admitting they were wrong.  But also, on a deeper level than all of that, a lot of the time blaming of a partner is used as a defence mechanism to help the accuser with the realization that they have hurt someone they care about.

This does not make blame correct but it does make a hell of a lot of sense.

Confront without ASSUMING

Likewise, when you assume what the problem is you are doing yourself, your partner and your relationship a disservice.  You are not giving your partner the opportunity to explain what’s really going on.

Yes, sometimes they will confirm your feelings but at least then you know exactly what you’re dealing with.  However a lot of the time your assumptions will be way of. Way, way off.

Ultimately what happens with this is that a new argument is created BECAUSE of the assumption made as a basis for blaming your partner.

You see the negative domino effect here?

APPLY IT TO ALL SITUATIONS

Tricky though this may seem, this sentence can be used to confront your partner in most situations.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, ‘If I suspect they are cheating on me then they will just lie if I don’t give them all I’ve got!

You’d think wouldn’t you.  Listen, if your partner is going to lie about something on this grand a scale then how you approach it may make very little difference.  The point is, do you want to assume and blame your partner for something that you don’t know is true?

Have you got all the evidence and investigator footage and photographs to prove that this is the case? Great! Go ahead and tell them exactly what you know and dare them to lie to you!

However, in a GOOD relationship we owe it to ourselves and our partners to not make these assumptions but ask them if what we are assuming is correct.

We’re amazing at winding ourselves up and finding what the experts call confirmation bias.  Or even worse negativity bias. The first means that we look for the information that solely supports what we believe to be true while dismissing all the other evidence.

confirmation bias effects how to confront your partner this is a diagram from James Clear's website showing how confirmation bias works
Original Image from Jamesclear.com

The second does this exact same thing but focuses solely on the negative.  The negative information always wins out.

Whether our brains do this or not, it is always about how we ACT on it. 

Sure, I have spent hours of a day fixating on how what I’ve done or what I’ve said might make my partner love me less and want to leave.  I think about all of the things they’ve said or done to confirm this. I catastrophize situations and memories to support this idea but then…

My partner will come home and I’ll say, ‘I’m making up a story in my head that how I’ve behaved lately might have you doubting your feelings for me.  Am I correct?

This REMOVES the assumption, it REMOVES any blame (‘You’re behaving like this and if it’s because I said this, that or the other then it was only in response to what you said and did first!’) and defensive behaviour.

It gives everyone the opportunity to defuse a situation quickly and communicate.

HOW TO CONFRONT YOUR PARTNER WITHOUT BLAME

Use this magic sentence, don’t react based on assumptions, don’t use blaming language to defend yourself and ask for confirmation of your thoughts and feelings.

You owe it to your relationship.

(If your relationship is in need of some TLC and a ‘factory reset’ then grab your copy of the Relationship RECONNECT Toolkit to help get you started. It has tools and techniques for you to work on individually and as a couple for best results)

About Emma Loveday

Hi there! My name is Emma, founder and writer of 'Resilient Humans'. Lover of slippers, 13% vol red wine, online courses (I don't care, you don't know me!) and queso, obviously. I'm currently in the process of writing my new book, 'Bold, Brave & Brilliant: 12 life lessons to cultivate mental strength and emotional resilience'. Check out @resilientemma on Instagram for the latest updates and all of the juicy goodness. Any questions? Just drop me a DM at hello@resilienthumans.co.uk or jump in the comment section below, I'd love to hear from you. No, truly I would.
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