Ha! Bet you’re saying well that’s easy, since they act like one sometimes! But why you should treat your partner like a child has serious implications for building a better relationship with them. Sometimes communication patterns start that become detrimental. We forget how we came to be in a relationship with this person as we fall into our daily routines. By this, I mean we forget what drew us together in the first place. We go to work, schlep the kids around (if they are present), grocery shop, mop up the spills, do the laundry, take the dog to the vet, get the car inspected, pay the taxes, etc. The requirements of daily life can feel like such a slog at times!
These tasks can cause us to fall into behavior and communication habits as well, such as getting easily irritable, maybe even yelling, when one person feels the other is not pulling their weight. Or perhaps you suffer the nasty, whiny mood from a partner disappointed by something that happened at work. Maybe you hear the constant complaining about not enough money to pay bills and go out to dinner once in a while. These whining, complaining routines make us forget. They make us forget how we came to love this person in the first place.
Why was it so easy at first to overlook the habits that drive us mad now? Could it be that before you had a much more forgiving stance? At the beginning of your relationship, were you much more willing to assume the best? For example, when your partner woke up on the wrong side of the bed, did you think, “Wow, he/she is having a really tough time at work with all of the changes lately.” Or “I know he/she is really worried about [fill in the blank] and isn’t sleeping very well.” Did you have this positive benefit-of-the-doubt stance instead of just feeling pissed off or resigned to enduring their lousy mood?
Communication With A Child Is Kind
What is it you were doing differently? You were actually looking underneath what was being expressed for the real causes of distress. This is exactly what you might do if you were walking home from school with your first grader and they they suddenly blurted out “I hate my teacher!” Or the even more startling “I hate you!” You would immediately look under this statement for charitable reasons why your child is expressing these strong feelings. You would not assume the statement is true without offering the benefit of the doubt and doing some gentle exploring to allow the child to express what is going on. You would help them explore those powerful feelings in a way that leads to them feeling heard and understood.
What would happen if you went back to treating your partner like a child, with this loving kindness that offers the benefit of the doubt? How would it feel if they gave you the same respect? You will have to interrupt the pattern you may have assumed of predicting the outcome of their behavior. You will have to drop some assumptions. You will have to be open and genuinely curious. But I can promise you it is worth it.
That is what happens at the beginning of a relationship, and continues when the relationship is healthy. But it is so easy to forget when life’s daily cares pile on. If you need help coming back to this place with your partner, and you are ready to do the work that commitment requires, shoot me an email or go to my contact form. The work is in the small stuff, and even beginning with small changes can have a big impact on your most special relationship.
Resource: Click here for a great read on how to complain.