What to do when your partner just doesn't get it
HE JUST DOESN’T GET IT!?!?! SHE JUST DOESN’T GET IT!?!?! Has this thought ever crossed your mind regarding your partner? Has it ever crossed your lips? Has it been accompanied by frustration, agitation, and/or contempt? If it has, you are in good company. We all experience those feelings at some point. We feel like our partner just doesn’t understand us, or worse yet doesn’t even care to. That certainly is a very frustrating situation! And in some way or to some degree that certainly can be true.
But what if it is not all the fault of our partner? What if part of this situation is due to us? What if we bear some responsibility, too? What if the way we present ourselves and our concerns influences the way our partner responds to us?
According to research, this is exactly what happens. The way in which we bring up things and the way we present ourselves influences how others respond to us. Sometimes this is hard to hear, that we bear some responsibility, too, but if that is the case then we might as well make that work in our favor.
“The way in which we bring up things and the way we present ourselves influences how others respond to us.”
So what do we do?
It is helpful to keep two principles in mind. They are relatively simple, but quite impactful and influential. If we can do these two things, then we are setting ourselves up to be better understood and better responded to.
1. Be kind.
Just be kind in how you treat and talk to your partner. Be kind in your tone of voice. Be kind in your gestures. You know their hot buttons – don’t push them. You know that one thing that would be a dagger and inflict the most pain – don’t say it. You know their insecurities – don’t use them as ammo. Treat them kindly, as you would want them to treat you, or as you would treat your best friend (because chances are they are your best friend!). Even though you feel you have the right to really let them have it, don’t. Be kind.
2. Be descriptive.
This principle guides you in how you can bring up and say the things that you want and need to say. This is the time that it can be all about you! You can describe how you feel about things, and your experience of the situation at hand. You can describe how your partner’s actions or words make you feel. You can describe why certain things are important to you, or how your partner’s words or actions stir up painful or significant feelings for you. You can describe how painful memories come into play and make you feel about current situations. You can describe your thoughts and feelings. Be descriptive.
It is helpful to remember that as you follow these two principles, you are actually working in your own best interest. You are making it easier for your partner to respond well to you. You are helping your partner to understand you better. You are also working in the best interest of your partner and of your relationship. And you have also greatly increased the odds that he or she will just get it!
“Gentle words are a tree of life; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.” - Proverbs 15:4 (NLT)
Willa Williams is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She works at the Biola Counseling Center as a therapist and at the Biola Center for Marriage and Relationships as the Consulting Therapist. She has a Master of Arts in Religion from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, IL) and a Master of Arts in Counseling in Psychology from Trinity International University (Deerfield, IL). She is Level 3 Trained in the Gottman Method of Couples Therapy and also is a Certified Prepare/Enrich Facilitator. Before coming to Biola, she served overseas at the Spanish Bible Institute in Barcelona, Spain, where she taught a class on counseling skills for pastors and served as the staff therapist for the students. She has been married for more than 30 years and has two teenage children. She has a passion for healthy relationships and enjoys working with couples as well as individuals. She appreciates the immense impact that healthy marriages and relationships have on couples as well as future generations.