The quickest way to getting what you want is to remain humble, express how you feel, validate your partner’s feelings, and ask for forgiveness or a compromise.
“Oh my goodness, I cannot believe I forgot the tickets! I was rushing out the door and didn’t double-check before we left. I am so sorry to have ruined our night like that.”
“I’m sorry I raised my voice. I guess I just felt like I wasn’t being heard by you and I really want us to communicate effectively so I think I got a little impatient. I feel really strongly about this topic and I know you do too. Let’s try again.”
“You’re right, I could help out more around the house and I understand why you’re frustrated. I guess I’ve just been rebelling a bit because I feel like you’ve been reminding me about cleaning up so much. If I promise to be better about cleaning, would you promise to give me a week without nagging to prove myself to you?”
A technique many couples find helpful in improving their communication is the Imago Dialogue. The Imago Dialogue is a structured way of speaking and listening to each other so that each person feels heard and understood.
Remember, this is a partnership between you too and it’s important to strengthen your relationship with each other.
3. Stonewalling: Shutting Down Emotionally In A Relationship
Stonewalling tends to be a toxic behavior more typical of men than women. Stonewalling is defined as withdrawing from the conversation or even the relationship as a way to avoid conflict.
This may look like a husband staring at his wife as she talks but not making any indication that he hears her or that she is even there. He might walk away without acknowledging that he needs a break from the conversation or simply start looking at his phone and tuning out what she has to say.
Partners engaging in stonewalling may think they are being neutral and avoiding making a situation worse by saying something that will upset their partner but stonewalling actually conveys disapproval, icy distance, separation, disconnection, and/or smugness. Women report it to be incredibly anxiety-provoking when their husband is emotionally unavailable.
Stonewalling usually comes from a place of being flooded or emotionally overwhelmed. When we are flooded, we essentially go into fight or flight mode and our brain isn’t able to function appropriately. Humans have 3 reactions when they feel like they are in danger; fight, flight, or freeze. Stonewallers tend to freeze. Dr. Gottman’s research shows that when your heart rate goes above about 85-95 beats per minute, you are flooded and are not able to think as effectively.
In the case of emotional shutdown or flooding, taking a structured timeout is more productive than continuing the conversation and trying to push through the overwhelm. If you determine you need a break from the conversation, I recommend using the structured timeout process. Let your partner know that you are feeling overwhelmed and would like to talk about this when you are both in a better state of mind.
Then give time between 20 minutes and 24 hours when you will return to complete the conversation once you have both had a chance to calm down and think things through rationally.
This way, you both know the issue will be addressed and you can take time to calm down knowing you have a plan to come back to the conversation. When it is time to come back to the conversation, the partner that requested the break should be the one re-initiating the conversation so that asking for a break is not viewed as an escape from having to deal with issues in the relationship.
To learn more about flooding and using the structured time-out procedure, check out this video blog I created.