How Not to Kill Your Partner in Tough Times

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Any stressful event, like moving, a child’s illness, or a visit from relatives you don’t both adore, provides plenty of opportunities for getting angry at your mate or sulking in resentment.
“Where are my keys?” you roar. Your partner sits in silence, unmoved. You expected help finding them. You’re late, and you’re under incredible stress, and a little help would be appreciated…
You assume love. It’s a stretch. This feels like betrayal. “OK, what if this silence is the chosen behavior of a kind and generous partner of enormously high integrity who loves me deeply? How would I explain it?”
So, why does anyone choose silence when they feel love and are being asked for help? Could be because they don’t realize the question is aimed at them. Not the case here, though. It’s just the two of you.
Could be because they think the question is rhetorical. Might be worth checking to see if you’re looking directly at your keys as you ask the question. No, they’re not here.
Could be silence is the most loving of the options available under the circumstances. Is there some reason your spouse might be under so much stress that the choices are between saying something mean and saying nothing at all? Oh, yes, that’s a pained, stressed-out expression. It’s not that you’re being offered no help. You’re being spared from dealing with expressions of outrage from a mate whose stress level is over the top.
You know what’s causing all this stress. It’s affecting you, too. But why would asking about the keys add to it? Being helpful to a loved one is, after all, calming.
You could use some calming yourself, so you try being helpful: “Did I leave them somewhere I shouldn’t have?”
“You did! You left them on the sink again. I know you know that’s where I clean my contact lenses, and I really need to keep it sanitary, and I can’t use the guest bathroom this week when I don’t feel like cleaning up after you, and it’s really, really important I avoid getting any infections right now!”
“That was thoughtless of me. But it wasn’t intentional. It’s a rough week, isn’t it?”
“Your keys are on the dresser. Want me to drive you, so you won’t have to take time to find a parking space?”
Ahh. Much better.

About the author

Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.

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  • well i think i tough situations both partners should compromise each other and don’t panic with situations its time to understand each other and kiss away the pain .

By Patty Newbold

Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.

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