TIPS FOR TALKING TO YOUR SPOUSE WHEN YOU’RE NOT ON THE SAME PAGE
- Assume that they have your child’s best interest at heart. That way, you’ll see them as someone on the same side rather than as an enemy.
- Try to see things from their perspective. Not only will that help you find a compromise, but it will increase the likelihood that they will see things from your perspective.
- When you explain your perspective, don’t blame them for doing things differently from how you would. Doing so will only make them immediately defensive and unwilling to hear you or focus on solutions.
Here’s what this looks like:
Scenario: Lindsay knows that her son Ryan needs to go to bed by 8:00 or he’s miserable the next day. One night she leaves Ryan with her husband Nick, and when she comes home after 8:30, she sees that Nick doesn’t have Ryan in bed yet.
Lindsay (thinks): Oh boy. Ryan is still up. Nick hasn’t put him to bed. Ugh…. This is REALLY frustrating. And I know if I go in there right now, I’m going to freak out on Nick… which will upset Ryan and bedtime will be even later. I need to take a minute.
Lindsay (after calming herself down, she focuses on speaking slowly and calmly): Nick? Ryan’s still up?
Nick (slightly defensive): Yeah…
Lindsay (thinks): OK, he realizes I’m a little upset. There’s no need for me to rub in his face how wrong I think he is.
Lindsay (trying to sound curious): How come?
Nick: Oh, we were playing…
Lindsay (thinks): OK… but Nick’s playing means I’ll have a worse day tomorrow…. But… I have to stop seeing Nick as the enemy or this will NOT go well.
Lindsay: I’m glad you’re playing. That’s great. What did you play?
Nick: We read books and made a fort. Want to see it?
Lindsay (thinks): NO, I don’t want to see it! I want Ryan to go to bed…
Lindsay: No thanks. Not now. Would you mind taking Ryan to bed? It’s important to me that he go to sleep now. And then maybe we can talk more after?
Nick (appreciating that Lindsay is trying to stay calm): Sure.
He returns a few minutes later, without Ryan.
Lindsay (thinks): OK, if I want this conversation to work, I need to be on the same team with Nick. We can have different opinions and still be on the same team. I need to start by connecting.
Lindsay: I think it’s great that you and Ryan were hanging out like that. I know he loves playing with you.
Nick: Yeah, we had a good time.
Lindsay (thinks): OK… I’m going to tell him how I feel — WITHOUT attacking him.
Lindsay: Is it OK if I tell you why I was a upset when I came home and he wasn’t asleep?
Lindsay (thinks): OK, he’s not defensive. I can do this… I just CAN’T attack him.
Lindsay: When Ryan doesn’t get enough sleep, the next day with him is tough for me.
Nick: Yeah. I guess I wasn’t thinking about that. I got wrapped up in what we were doing.
Lindsay (thinks): I can’t expect him to think of me all the time. I need to ask Nick for what I need, and I can do it respectfully.
Lindsay: I get that. You two don’t get a ton of time to play. Let me ask you this.. If you had another time you knew you could play together, would you feel better about putting him to bed earlier?
Nick: That could work. But I have an idea too…
Lindsay and Nick are able to find solutions that work for both of them because they each take time to respect the other’s perspective without attacking (or needing to be defensive).
DEALING WITH RESISTANCE
Your spouse won’t admit they did anything wrong
What it may mean: When someone is unwilling that they did anything wrong, it’s because they refuse to be vulnerable (it IS vulnerable to admit you were wrong) because they don’t feel like someone is on their side.
What you can say to yourself:
“If I want them to have my back, I need to show them that I have theirs too.”
What you can say to them:
“Wait, you know what? I really want to understand where your’e coming from. I know you did what you did for a reason.”