• There are no suggestions because the search field is empty.

Get a Fresh Perspective in Your Committed Relationship!

We may have hard heads but we don’t have rock-solid hearts—our hearts are soft and vulnerable. In committed relationships, we need a lot of understanding to build bridges, especially when our needs collide with our partner’s.

One of the things we tend to do is personalize our partner’s behavior when they are acting out their stress or unresolved emotions. When we personalize their behavior, our feelings often get hurt—and then we sometimes either lash out or disconnect from our partner to protect ourselves. Neither tactic creates more closeness or love in our relationship.

Conflict resolution is a crucial skill in a love relationshipRelationship commitment doesn't mean that there won't be issues and conflicts. Often when one or both in a relationship are reacting, they are personalizing their partner's behavior even when it has nothing to do with them. Knee-jerk reactions do not support conflict resolution.

A simple yet powerful practice is depersonalizing your partner's behavior. By detaching and seeing your partner’s behavior more objectively, it allows you to discern the underlying need instead of reacting to behavior. This simple mind shift will better equip you to respond instead of reacting. 

So the next time 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, and more love.

Related reading: "Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall..."

Steps for Depersonalizing Your Partner's Behavior

Imagine your partner has just returned home from work. He or she immediately erupts and makes a stinging remark to you.

STEP 1:  Mirror and empathize with your partner’s feelings. For example, “You must be really stressed! It’s so unlike you to lash out at me.” Or use mirroring with a boundary: “Looks like you’re upset. I’ll be in the living room when you’re calmer and ready to talk about what’s bothering you.”

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. Maybe she’s just 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 unkind behavior. Be sure that you are calm and feel loving before you reconnect with your partner.

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

Couple on floor2STEP 5: Revisit and talk about the situation with your partner when you both are calm. When you talk things over at a calm time, you will discover important information that can be used to support the relationship moving forward.

For instance, perhaps certain times of the day or specific situations are particularly difficult for one or both of you. If so, design a plan to better handle similar situations in the future. Or if you find that your individual needs are competing, such as the need for alone time or exercise, then discuss a way for both of you to get your needs met regularly. A couple rarely reaches greater understanding or resolution without communicating, so make communication a priority. When you commit to each other in this way, you build a solid foundation for closeness and ease in the relationship.

STEP 6: Assess how you’re doing after a couple of weeks. Tweak as necessary to make your resolutions and agreements more successful.

STEP 7: Carve time and space in your lives for quality time together. Relationships need attention to grow and thrive.

Family activities, work demands, and life’s challenges can be relentless to juggle daily. We’re all human, and we make mistakes. At any moment, a stressful day or a disappointment or an event we were unprepared for can spark negative feelings and an unloving exchange or argument. So when you feel like you might snap or growl or snarl… it’s time to take a break, breathe, and reconnect with yourself. And when your partner is the one growling, depersonalize their behavior and practice the above steps to prevent relationship collisions.

Related reading: "Love Is a Choice—the Best Marriage Advice."

For support or more information about couples mentoring, contact us.

Like the article? Help us spread the word and share it!

Jennifer A. Williams / Heartmanity FounderJennifer A. Williams / Heartmanity Founder
Jennifer, as the Heartmanity Founder, has coached couples for over two decades. With her extensive experience and vast knowledge of emotional intelligence and brain science, Jennifer provides profound insights. She specializes in communication and teaches EQ skills needed to create healthy relationships. Jennifer is happily married and the mother of three grown children who are incredible human beings.

Posted in Love, Marriage, and Relationships

Free Newsletter!

Featured Online Courses

Online Course - Emotional Fitness for the 21st Century 4 Keys to Unlocking the Power of Empathy