“As I Already Said…”
This is my famous line that I encourage all my clients to say when assertively asking for a need to be met in their relationship.
For example, let’s say you go to your partner and you say, “When you gamble some of your paycheck at the casino when we are behind on the utility bill it makes me feels scared. I need for you to promise me you won’t gamble again until we are caught up on our bills.” A defensive response would not be unlikely. Your partner might come back and say, “Well, I won money anyway, what’s the big deal?” Or they might bring up the $15 you spent on some item that they thought was unnecessary.
These are defensive responses, and in some cases some people become emotionally mean and even verbally abusive when their partner brings up a relationship complaint or concern.
On a daily basis, I hear clients discussing fears about bringing up their feelings and concerns in a relationship because they are anxious about it leading to a defensive reaction that escalates into a terrible fight.
Instead of responding to whatever deflection or defensive response your partner is giving you, try repeating yourself in a matter of fact way instead!
“As I already said, when you gamble some of your paycheck (even a very small amount) when we are behind on the utility bill it makes me feels scared. I think I have a reasonable request for you to promise me that you won’t go to the casino again until we are caught up on our bills.”
Now, trust me when I tell you, that it is not uncommon for more defensive responses to continue if your partner has a difficult time with hearing and validating your concerns. There are many reasons for defensive responses, however I won’t explain them for the purpose of today’s advice. The important thing here is that you know how to react. Let’s say that your partner comes back with yet another defense. “You know that I am supposed to get a bonus next month and that I will likely be able to pay off the bill then. I just want to have a little fun in the meantime. You worry too much!”
Your persistent response should be easy to remember! What is it? That’s right.
“As I already said, when you gamble any amount of your paycheck when we are behind on the utility bill instead of saving that money to pay the bill it makes me feel scared. I need for you to agree that you won’t gamble again until all our bills are caught up.”
Let’s say you have to say “As I already said” for a fourth time. In this case, you might say something like “Honey, you can’t argue with my feelings or my request. As I already said, I feel scared when you gamble money when we are behind on our bills. I am asking you to promise me that you will not gamble again until we are all caught up.”
Do you see how this is persistent? It shows that you value yourself and that you believe in the reasonable request that you are asking for. It also keeps your partner from being able to change the topic to something else, such us how you spent $15 on shampoo that your partner thought was too expensive because you could have purchased it for $11.99. Before you know it, you can be talking about all kinds of problems and things completely unrelated to your initial concern. Instead of going down this path, no matter how much your partner tries to control the conversation or tries to tell you how you should feel, this strategy is a simple way to stay persistent in the face of defensiveness. Some therapists consider regular defensiveness as emotionally abusive. In some relationships, defensiveness escalates into name-calling, cursing, and other verbal abuse. Dr. Patricia Evans in her book “The Verbally Abusive Relationship” encourages people to use this approach. I read about this strategy over ten years ago. I have found it to be very useful for many of my clients, and I recommend it for you. Some clients who have consistently used this approach have reduced control and defensiveness in their relationships.
If you need support and assistance because you are struggling with any kind of relationship communication. Please schedule your first appointment with a Relationship Repair Associate by going to www.therapyportal.com/p/drstephanie/