Communicate Frustration to Your Husband, Wife or Romantic Partner Without an Argument
© 2021 Richard Chandler, MA, LPC, Masters in Psychotherapy, Licensed Professional Counselor
Married, engaged, and partnered couples aren’t exempt from feeling frustrated or upset with their partner at one time or another. When romantic couples frequently deal with frustration, it often is due to their communication styles.
Gaining insight into how each individual communicates and how that communication is received can significantly improve a couple’s relationship. Romantic partners may take steps to provide non-defensive, respectful, and productive conversations.
Create an open and safe environment to talk with each other by:
- Setting aside regular times to communicate, from small talk and shop talk to more in-depth conversations about the relationship.
- Setting boundaries for discussions that have the potential for disagreement.
Boundaries could include:
- Equal air-time - no monologing
- No raised voices and yelling
- No name-calling
- Either partner can call a time-out when emotions become elevated. The other partner agrees to honor the time out
- The person who called the time out is responsible for setting a time to resume the conversation
- Agree to use “I statements” instead of “you statements” (see more on this communication tool below)
If you feel frustrated, remember that you and your mate are not the only ones who have gone through this: your talks can improve despite a feeling of frustration. We’ll provide you with a few tips on communicating your frustration effectively to experiment with so you may discover what works best for you.
Common Frustrations Marriage Partners & Romantic Couples Experience
It’s important to understand that you are not alone in feeling frustrated with your spouse. No couple is exempt from this. It doesn’t make you wrong to feel this way. Every person is unique and will not have the same viewpoint as you. It is how you and your mate talk about your frustrations, discuss your issues and reconcile those differences - if reconciliation is possible - that matters.
Some common issues or frustrations spouses and committed gay, lesbian or straight have mentioned include:
- More time spent apart than together.
- You spend too much time together, leaving no space for individual activities and time with each of your friends.
- You fight about the same issues.
- You don’t like their parents, or they don’t like yours.
- You feel insecure about your future together.
- You have a hard time relating to your partner’s issues or your partner to yours.
- You or your partner feels misunderstood.
- You or your partner doesn’t feel appreciated.
- You or your partner feel like the other doesn’t give enough attention.
- The two of you argue over money.
- You don’t like his or her friends, or those friends don’t want to hang out with you.
- You or your partner feel bored with your relationship.
- You both feel like you are growing apart.
- You think or know your partner has been unfaithful or vice versa.
- You or your partner are going through some significant life stressors.
- You feel like the bad cop when it comes to parenting your children, or vice versa.
Steps to Communicate Respectfully
Schedule Regular Check-Ins
One of the first steps to maintaining strong communication between you and your partner includes scheduling a regular time to talk about life and anything that may be bothering them. Here is where you and your partner can have the time to let go of any frustrations you may have had before they have a chance to build up.
At the end of these check-ins, you and your partner can walk away with a new plan of action to do things in the future.
Set Boundaries For Communicating with Your Partner
To foster open, honest communication, each partner needs to feel safe to do so. You both need an environment where you feel secure, and setting boundaries around communicating can do this.
Incorporate rules like no yelling, swearing, name-calling, eye-rolling, or cutting the other off. Also, both partners should have equal “air time” and should avoid having long monologues.
Additional Tips For Disagreeing Respectfully
Disagreements are common, and it is vital to deal with them respectfully, both in your romantic relationship and outside of it. It often happens that you and many people get so wrapped up in your own beliefs that common courtesy flies right out the window.
As Dr. John Gottman says, criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling are known as the “four horsemen” of disagreements. All of these are counterproductive to fostering strong, healthy communication between couples.
Antidotes for these can include:
- Practicing a gentle start-up in conversation.
- Building a culture of appreciation.
- Taking responsibility.
- Practicing self-soothing.
Ideally, it is better if arguments and disagreements don’t get to the point that couples cannot disagree respectfully from the start.
Tips for more respectfully disagreeing include:
- Focusing on the Facts. Using logic, reasoning, and information supporting your disagreement will not only make your argument much more substantial but also can help make the debate less personal.
- Recognize the Good. Even though you and your partner may disagree on something, this doesn’t mean everything your romantic partner says is wrong. Remember to pick out points you agree with, if there are some, instead of disagreeing with their entire statement.
Before launching into your argument, it helps to preface it with something you like about the other’s original suggestion. You may say something like, “I agree with you on the first part of your idea but not on the second part.”
- Use “I” Statements Versus “You” Statements. When one partner feels blamed, it is common to respond defensively. Using “I” statements can help clients reduce feelings of blame.
According to Gordon Training, the three main components of an “I” statement include:
- A brief, non-blameful description of the BEHAVIOR you find unacceptable.
- Your FEELINGS.
- The tangible and concrete EFFECT of the behavior on you.
Some Other Tips for Disagreeing Respectfully Are:
Disagree with the Argument, Not the Person
To disagree with the argument is a much softer blow than disagreeing with the person. For example, there is a difference between saying “you are wrong” versus “what you are saying is wrong.”
Know When to Move On
Sometimes you will need to agree to disagree. Walking away can be difficult, but sometimes it is more important to preserve a relationship than to be right.
Remember to Listen
It can be easy to focus on fueling and putting together your argument that you can forget to listen to your partner’s words and underlying message. When you are actively listening, it is easier to diffuse arguments because your partner or spouse feels heard, which can lend them to be more receptive.
Additionally, you may realize you and your partner have more common ground in the disagreement than you initially realized. Frequently collaboration, done effectively, can lead to some of the best solutions to conflict.
Disagree in the Right Context
Make sure to pick a good time to talk to your partner about disagreements. Springing a list of grievances on your partner right after they get back from a long day of work is probably not a plan conducive to a healthy, productive discussion.
Having a set-aside time to discuss issues or concerns with your partner about your relationship can help both parties plan and come prepared in the right mindset for those meetings.
Seek Help From A Marriage Counselor or Therapist
If you feel like you have tried to resolve conflicts with your romantic partner, but things seem to be going nowhere, it may be time to seek outside help. Bringing in an unbiased, third party’s perspective can be eye-opening for individuals who may be blind to the ways that their actions affect their spouse, fiancee’ or romantic partner.
While these tips may seem basic and common sense, it is surprising how easy it is to miss them. Simple tweaks can significantly improve relationships.
Main Takeaways for Communicating Frustration in a Romantic Relationship
Being frustrated with one’s romantic partner is natural, and it is the way you both choose to handle those disagreements that can determine how your relationship plays out. Remember, it is natural to have disputes with romantic partners and spouses, and many different issues can trigger arguments.
By setting up a regular time to talk with your significant other about your relationship, setting boundaries during those discussions, and using the suggested tips for respectfully disagreeing, you and your partner will be well on your way to a happy, healthy relationship.
"Richard helped my husband with his anger, anxiety, and tobacco addiction. He was able to help me with my anxiety and need to please everyone around me, except my husband. He was able to give us tangible exercises that helped both of us. Now, two years later we look forward to our meetings with Richard and have been focusing more time on bettering our careers and we are far happier as individuals and as a married couple. Thank you, Richard!"
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