Best Marriage Advice: Depersonalize Your Partner's Behavior

One of the greatest impediments to a healthy relationship and happy marriage is personalizing your partner's behavior and accompanying emotions released in misunderstandings and arguments. When we take offense at our spouse's snarky remarks, arguments often spark. Granted, when angry emotions or childish behavior are wielded our way, it can be difficult to respond with love. Understandably so. When we commit our love to one another, we expect respect, support, and love.

Relationship is a lot like a game of pool

Relationships Need Nurturing

Relationship is a lot like a game of billiards or pool. Once you aim and hit that white ball with the cue, you never exactly know how the balls are going to fly or interact with one another. The more deliberate you are, the better the result. The better you know the game, the more successful the outcome. It is the same in love and marriage; relationships require nurturing.

Whether you are aware of it or not, unmanaged emotions often hijack ours and our partner's energy and behavior, just like the chaos that ensues when a player breaks the balls at the beginning of a game. The limbic brain, also referred to as the emotional brain, can quickly override rational thinking. However, knee-jerk reactions rarely have good outcomes. And the accumulative decisions we make determine the quality of our relationship and life, impacting our future.

Read more on the limbic brain and how to use mindfulness to enhance your relationship

We may have hard heads like those balls knocking around on a pool table but we don't have rock-solid hearts. Our hearts are soft and vulnerable.

In relationship, we need a lot of understanding to build bridges, especially when our needs and differences collide. One of the things we tend to do is personalize our partner's behavior when they are acting out their stress or pain. Whenever we make their behavior means something about us, our feelings usually get hurt. And sometimes, we lash out or disconnect from our partner to protect ourselves. Neither creates more love in the relationship. This dynamic is one of the most common relationship problems.

One simple yet powerful practice is depersonalizing your partner's behavior so that we are better equipped to respond instead of react.

Depersonalizing helps us unplug and see our partner's behavior more objectively, which then allows us to discern the underlying need. Please don't confuse this conscious strategy with depersonalization, where you are disassociated from your body or the situation. Here we're talking about a temporary reframe of your partner, their behavior, and the situation to calm and stay connected to yourself and your partner lovingly.

So when your partner is stressed and it feels like they are taking it out on you, practice the steps below to get better results: more understanding, more closeness, more love.

Related reading: "Love Is a Choice: the Best Marriage Advice"
Love is staying connected on the journey

Relational Fitness: Steps for Authentic Communication

STEP 1:  Mirror your partner's feelings. For example, "Wow! You must be really stressed! It's so unlike you to lash out at me." Or use mirroring with a boundary: "Looks like you need some space. I'll be in the backyard when you're calmer and ready to connect."

STEP 2:  Consciously depersonalize through supportive self-talk. For example, say to yourself: "This isn't about me. He's just had a rough day." or "Don't take it personally. She is probably feeling overwhelmed."

STEP 3:  Take care of yourself so you're ready to connect when your partner regains their center. CAUTION: We sometimes want to hurt back or punish our partner for their behavior. Be sure that you are feeling loving before you reconnect. Ask for what you need.

STEP 4:  Check in with your partner if they don't reconnect with you in a reasonable amount of time.

STEP 5:  Do something loving for your partner when your heart prompts you.

STEP 6:  Revisit and talk about the situation with your partner if it is a pattern. (A rare or one-time occurrence probably doesn't warrant a major discussion.) However, if the issue is repetitive, it's best to discuss a way for both of you to get your needs met regularly to avoid the disagreement in the future.

STEP 7:  Together, assess how you're doing after a couple of weeks.

Try these steps to diffuse emotions, communicate better, and reconnect in deeper love with your partner.

If you'd like personalized support to better communicate in your relationship or learn tools to create happy and healthy relationships, call 406-577-2100 or email us at

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Jennifer A. Williams / Heartmanity FounderJennifer A. Williams / Heartmanity Founder
Jennifer’s passion is to help people create thriving relationships. She coaches individuals, parents, and couples to build healthy and loving families. Jennifer has been conducting premarital workshops and mentoring couples for nearly two decades. She teaches couples the critical skills needed to break out of unloving patterns, which naturally removes the obstacles to loving connection and authentic communication. With an emphasis on emotional intelligence and brain science, her proven process accelerates transformation. She also conducts Heal Yourself, Heal Your Marriage retreats because she believes that all healthy relationships begin within each person. Jennifer is happily married to her beloved husband of 40 years and is the mother of three grown children.

Posted in Love, Marriage, and Relationships