Fighting With Your Partner? Use These 4 Phrases

Last weekend, as I was cleaning up a mess in the kitchen, my husband was parked in the living room, absorbed in his phone.

I asked him for help. Silence. I asked again. Nothing. As I shoved plates and bowls into the dishwasher, I slipped into an old habit: I imagined a thought bubble above his head.

“Life is good,” it said. “I’m kicking back while my wife does everything! My time is more valuable than hers!”

This relationship-sabotaging practice is known by many names: Some call it “the story I am making up,” or “the story I am telling myself right now.” Terrence Real, a family therapist and the author of “Us: Getting Past You and Me to Build a More Loving Relationship,” calls it “unconscious storytelling” — and it happens when you imagine what your partner is thinking or feeling.

Making these assumptions can escalate an argument and distort the issue, Real said. Instead, he counsels people to share perceived slights using a therapeutic tool known as “the feedback wheel.” This simple, four-sentence method — adapted, he said, from the work of the therapist Janet Hurley — helps loved ones share grievances in ways that speed the repair process.

When you find yourself in a storytelling spiral, pause and remind yourself that you care about the person who has upset you, Real said. Then ask if it’s a good time to talk.

If they’re open to hearing about your frustrations, use these four statements:

Describe what happened in one sentence, Real said. “Share only the facts — ones a camera could record,” he said. The key to this statement, and the feedback wheel overall, is its brevity, Real said.

Explaining your personal point of view “acts as a circuit breaker,” said Alexandra Solomon, a professor of psychology at Northwestern University and the author of “Loving Bravely.” Not only does this take the heat off the other person, she said, but it compels you to examine your own emotions. “The stories we tell ourselves are informed by our internal landscape of wounds and tender spots and traumas and patterns,” she said.

Using this phrase helps acknowledge that your perception might be inaccurate. “It’s taking responsibility that this is your construction,” Real said.

Take a moment to focus on your emotions. Then describe them, concisely, to your partner, Real said. You might say that you’re scared, hurt or angry, he explained. “Feelings only,” he said, “not thoughts or beliefs.” Sharing your feelings helps you move from the “reactive parts of your brain,” Real said, and into what he calls “the wise adult.”

This final statement, Real said, is one that most people leave out. But making your needs clear is a necessary step because “you can’t complain about not getting what you never asked for,” he said.

By sharing the story you made up, your feelings and your needs, Real said, you’re shifting from anger to vulnerability. You “say what needs to be said,” Real added, but it’s done with respect.

Ideally, Dr. Solomon added, “the other person responds feeling grateful for their partner’s vulnerability rather than guilt-tripped or defensive.”

Using these statements with my husband has been a game-changer: Sometimes my interpretations of his behavior are so off base that when I tell him, we laugh — and the tension is broken.

In the case of the dishes, I eventually stormed into the living room and told my husband that I’d concocted a story that involved him deliberately ignoring me and prioritizing his leisure time over mine.

“I’m sorry, what?” he said, taking out his earbuds.

Most health care providers do not have formal training in pain management — and when patients do report pain, there are racial, socioeconomic and gender disparities in how they are treated. Four physicians who specialize in treating pain offer advice on how to advocate for yourself. For starters: Trust your gut, and consider bringing a support person.

Read the article: How to Discuss Pain With Your Doctor

Wellness products — from probiotic sodas to skin “detoxing” creams — borrow scientific language to market unproven products. Experts share some of the most common tactics that companies use, including jam-packed ingredient lists and showcasing research that isn’t related to the product or claim.

Read the article: How Fake Science Sells Wellness

Here are some stories you don’t want to miss:

Let’s keep the conversation going. Follow Well on Instagram, or write to us at And check out last week’s newsletter about how to stop thinking about work all the time.

Source link