You can tell there’s a storm brewing in your relationship. Your partner looks angry – you can see it. You know he/she is getting close to the boiling point. What do you do? Do you leave (or run!)? Do you brace yourself for the fight that’s coming? Do you attack first?
You don’t have to do any of these things. Instead, by being mindful of what’s going on with your partner, you (and your partner) can learn to avoid arguments.
Yes – by being mindful you can help avoid fights and diffuse tension. How? Mindfulness can be used to help bring your attention to the situation before it escalates.
The easiest way to bring your partner’s attention to what you see is to simply comment on what you’re noticing on the outside. You might say:
- “Gee, I notice you’ve started pacing.”
- “It seems as if you’ve gotten quieter the past few minutes.”
- “I can see your eye twitching.”
Your purpose is only to say out loud what you see or hear your spouse doing. It’s crucial that you allow for the fact that you really don’t know what’s going on inside your partner. If I asked you to guess about the underlying cause, you would become an evaluator and we all know how well THAT goes over in marriage. Be sure NOT to say, “You seem to be getting upset,” because that comment is a guess about their feelings inside. Unbelievably, our spouse isn’t grateful when we comment on that!
Instead of commenting on what you THINK your partner’s emotional state is, make your remark about his/her behavior on the outside as if you’re opening a door and inviting him/her in. Remember, however, that they will only enter (talk about it) if they want to. Think of it as narrating what you’re witnessing, like a reporter. Keep in mind that you’re not a reporter who’s uninvolved; you are this person’s spouse, so you must present your comment with kindness, curiosity and love. This is why your observation is followed with, “Tell me about what’s going on for you?” This is a way of asking in a gentle, curious and non-demanding way, “Do you want to talk about it?” It is done with support and caring.
It’s important that you don’t:
- jump to conclusions
- make assessments
- comment on what you think your partner’s state of mind is
- react with judgment
The key here is to try something different in the way you notice, and support, your spouse.
Being mindful by making gentle observations about your partner and asking him/her about it can give you the chance to step back, stop your own emotional responses, and help avoid confrontation. You are opening the door for improved communication and less conflict.
To learn more about how being mindful can lead to calmer communication in your relationship, call (908) 246-3074/908-246-3074 or email firstname.lastname@example.org