Dealing with negative emotions in relationships
Picture a box. A really tiny box. You can make it whatever colour you want. Every relationship has a tiny box just like that. It is a box everyone in a relationship creates unconsciously. It is filled with negative emotions caused by our partners like anger, shame or hurt. It is also filled with negative perceptions of our partners.
There are a lot of assumptions in there as well. There are also discussions that we should have with our partners that make us uncomfortable. Because it is such a tiny box, it needs to be constantly unpacked or else it reaches its rather small capacity after which, there is an explosion.
It is important not to shove issues or challenges we face in our relationships into the tiny box but rather talk about them as soon as we notice them. This is quite difficult to do because sometimes we do not recognize offence so quickly in relationships. Also with the different kind of personalities of people that come into play with relationships, there would be a group of people who generally like to work things out by themselves.
The issue with the tiny box is that when you begin to shove things into the box it becomes difficult to stop. This is because you have begun to compromise on your hurt feelings. The failure to acknowledge and work out these negative emotions only leads to the tipping point. At the tipping point, you are overwhelmed by the previous hurt and you don’t think logically anymore. This is the place where we lash out at our partners and say things that we do not mean and for more unfortunate situations things we cannot take back which puts a dent on the relationship.
Do you notice a growing resentment towards your partner? This is the first sign that the tiny box is nearing its capacity. Resentment is feeling that you have been treated unfairly and that your needs are being ignored. Resentment snowballs into disappointment and then bitterness and finally into hard feelings. At this point, everything about your partner irritates you. What is left is for a trigger no matter how small to send you to the tipping point.
How do you unpack this box? Because it is something we create unconsciously, no one knows that they have a tiny box. You only begin to figure this out at the stage of resentment. The solution to resentment is EMPATHY. You need to understand your partner and come at the situation trying to see their perspective. It is a bit hard but here are some tips on dealing with resentment.
- Count to ten before speaking. This will help calm you, help you think logically and help you choose your words carefully.
- Use “I” statements instead of “You”. For example “I feel resentful that you spend more time with your friends than with me.” This removes an accusatory tone and makes your partner more inclined to listen.
- Proactive listening. Repeat back what you heard in order to confirm you understood and affirm your partner’s feelings.
- Have a physical connection with your partner. You can hold hands. Do not have sex while talking about your issues because it only serves as a distraction and does not automatically fix the problem.
- Be willing to meet your partner halfway.
- Engage in daily empathy actions. Routine empathy can be actualized by checking in with your partner about how they are feeling. Once empathy becomes intrinsic behaviour, resentment often becomes a thing of the past.
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