One of the things that people often joke about is that Men From Mars like to fix problems while the Women From Venus- on the other hand- just want to share their feelings. Women, when you are sharing feelings with him, he is likely to perceive that you are complaining – even if you are not complaining about him! Therefore, I recommend that you use the Relationship Repair Steps when you want to share your feelings or ask for comfort from your mate.
For example, maybe you are upset and want to get comfort from your significant other by complaining about a disagreement you had with a friend. You believe that if you can talk and he listens to you for about 5-10 minutes that you will feel comforted and supported (You have identified a resolution which is Relationship Repair Step 1). This complaint is not about your husband, so it seems like you wouldn’t need to follow steps 2 and 3. But if you can start out by telling your man that he is great (Relationship Repair Step 2) and that you want to share your feelings, and that you have a complaint but is not at all about him (Relationship Repair Step 3), then you are setting the stage to have him listen and you may even prevent him from drifting in to defense mode.
Next, follow Relationship Repair Step 4 and explain briefly, in less than 2 sentences, that you had a disagreement with your friend. Tell your significant other that he can help resolve the concern you are having if he will listen to you for about five to ten minutes without giving you any advice (Relationship Repair Step 5).
Now, you’ve just outlined how your significant other can help to comfort you and resolve your feelings. He believes his role is to make you happy. In about 20 – 30 seconds he knows why you are emotional, that the complaint is not about him (whew!), and that his listening to you for 5- 10 minutes will help you feel better. This works great. Your man gets to fix the problem by listening to you, and you get to share your feelings. He just needs to understand that the way he can fix the problem is by listening to your feelings so that he knows exactly what his role is in the discussion.
Have you ever noticed that sometimes you start expressing emotions to your significant other and you are seeking comfort but somehow it turns into a fight? Using the Relationship Repair steps can help when you want to complain about something unrelated to the marriage that you are seeking comfort for.
Here are some possible resolutions you can ask for when you are seeking comfort from your mate:
- To hug you or to hold you while you are falling asleep.
- To run the bath water for you.
- To get you a glass of water or something to eat.
- To go on a short walk with you.
- To watch television with you, read to you from a book, or play a game of cards with you.
- To rub your back or hold your hand.
For many people, it is hard to ask for comfort. However, taking this step to ask for resolution in the form of asking for comfort when you are moody, upset, or sad will help your significant other know what he can do to protect and care for you. Otherwise, if you are upset, emotional, or complaining and do not say how you would like to be comforted, then this may cause your partner to feel helpless. Helplessness breeds frustration and fighting! So . . . asking for the comfort you need from your partner could ultimately prevent conflict from escalating.
When you are seeking comfort from your significant other, instead of bursting into tears or starting to rant about your boss or your friend, try to start out by calmly asking for comfort via Relationship Repair steps.
When you want comfort from your mate, try to spell out exactly what kind of comfort resolution you want. For example, I suggested above that you might ask him to listen to you for a few minutes until you feel better. But sometimes you may want a different kind of comfort. For example, you may like it when your significant other holds your hand. It is important that you learn what comforts you and then follow the complaint steps above to ask for comfort.
If your significant other does not typically comfort you, then think about how you would like him or her to comfort you. Then, you can ask for the type of comfort response you would like the next time you are upset.
Please review the Couples Therapy Worksheets for quick reminders about how to use the Relationship Repair Steps. Please Contact Me for more information or to book an Appointment.