What Is It Like For Your Partner When You Behave Badly In Your Relationship?

By Alice Boyes, PhD. | Uncategorized

When people screw up, they generally prefer not to think about it further. This mechanism is one of the reasons people end up screwing up in the same ways over and over.

Everyone behaves badly in their relationship from time to time. Think about the last time you behaved badly.

What was it like for your partner when you did that?

For example, you got frustrated with a task and went around the house swearing, stomping, and slamming doors. You rationalize “Well it wasn’t directed at my partner, I was just blowing off steam”.

But – what was it like to be on the other end of that?

Was it jarring for your partner? Did it make them feel on edge? Did they feel a bit scared (a natural reflex to hearing anger)? Did they feel lonely that you didn’t seem to be considering them? Did they feel nervous that the adult they rely on to be their pair in navigating the world seemed to be having a tantrum?
Did they have a sense of feeling helpless or out of control that wasn’t related to specific thoughts?

Note that this is NOT about how your partner SHOULD feel. Its about how they did feel. The two of you are a team so you need to deal with the reality of how to help each other.

The goal is to understand the feelings underneath any angry feelings. Try to understand the “soft emotion” elements – lonely, sad, disappointed, scared, on edge, powerless, hopeless etc.

Other examples:

When you told your partner they weren’t doing something right?
When you got impatient with them?
When you ignored them and carried on doing whatever you were doing?

The ability to do this type of perspective taking is an important skill for having a successful relationship.

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