I’ve always appreciated the privacy of our inner experience. That running narrative that (thank goodness) only we can hear. During the early years of motherhood, I became especially grateful that I had an “inside voice” that only I had access to.
I remember pacing through my house during those never-ending days, anxiety-filled nights and inconsolable moments with our babies where all I could hear was “I hate you” looping through my mind. I heard it when I woke up sleep deprived with dirty diapers waiting for me. It was there when our kids were cranky and hungry. It was there at 5:00 p.m. as others’ work days were coming to a close while mine had no end in sight. “I hate you,” was such a common phrase in my internal dialogue. And no, I wasn’t talking about the screaming baby.
I was talking about my husband.
I remember the shock of even having these thoughts, followed by worry that they might actually be true. “Is it normal to hate my husband after a baby?” I’d wonder to myself in silence after those rage-y moments. How could I go from loving someone so much, creating little human beings with that person, and then suddenly having such an angry inner dialogue about them? I remember the littlest things would set me off, like if he breathed too loud or left his coffee mug on the counter. I was oozing with anger.
The pre-kids version of myself would have thought, “Yikes, what’s with her? Why all the anger?”
But as a mental health therapist for moms and someone with that much-needed perspective, I know better now. I know that suddenly feeling like you hate your partner after having a baby is much more common than you might think. “Why do I hate my husband or partner after having my baby?” is a question I seriously get alllll the time. A lot of this comes from feeling as though you’re the one always doing the heavy lifting.
Here’s the thing: having children is one of the most stressful things a couple can experience. Research shows that most couples’ relationship satisfaction tanks for a few years after kids enter the picture. The Gottman Institute, a jackpot of research for this season of life, found that 67% of couples experienced an extreme drop-off in relationship satisfaction in the first three years of their child’s life. Now I get that this could sound pessimistic, but my hope is that you exhale knowing that you’re not the only one sitting with a whole lot of negativity and disconnection. It’s not just you and these feelings don’t necessarily mean anything “bad” about your relationship.
I hear similar versions of my experience all the time. Moms share things like: “Everything they do irritates me,”“I can’t even make eye contact with them,”“I’m not sure if I love him anymore,” or “I can’t stand to be in the same room.”
These thoughts can be alarming and make you question your relationship. But just know that there are likely underlying reasons that these intense emotions are bubbling up. Usually, anger is like the tip of the iceberg: there’s always way more going on under the surface.
Why Do I Hate My Husband/Partner After Having A Baby?
Why the sudden anger?
We know that parents with young kids have an incredible amount of responsibility, new roles, endless household tasks, identity shifts and major lifestyle changes that impact the relationship in profound ways. It’s quite possibly the biggest change you’ll ever go through! So much so that parents often talk about “before kids” and “after kids” as the biggest turning point in life.
It goes without saying that having a baby can bring incredible joy, purpose, and love into your life, but let’s also acknowledge how much a mother lets go of once she moves into this new identity. This is often at the core of anxiety and depression: who am I, now? There’s this expectation that a mother’s identity should seamlessly morph from an independent woman into a completely self-sacrificing mother as soon as her child is born. But it doesn’t work like that. She’s still that woman. She’s still herself. She still has needs that are worthy of her energy.
And she’s freaking mad when there’s no longer room for her.
I recently stumbled across a quote that will forever live in my back pocket: Eve Rodsky, in her book Fair Play, stated: “Resentment grows out of perceived unfairness.” Is it possible that the simmering anger you’re experiencing stems from feeling like everything is on you now? That possibly the division of parenting and household responsibilities isn’t feeling fair?
It’s not just a feeling, it’s the reality for most families. Research shows that mothers are still doing a disproportionate amount of household related work, as well as the bulk of the invisible and mental labor like planning, organizing, preparing, even when both of you are income earners. I stumbled across a recent SELF article which put numbers to this issue in a way I felt hit home: a 2015 study that looked at 182 heterosexual first-time parent partnerships found that women picked up an average of 37 hours of childcare and household-related work each week. That differed from 24 hours for the men. Anecdotally, this feels so common.
You’re fuming because you’re holding too much.
You’re raging inside (and maybe outside) because you can’t seem to figure out how moms actually do it all. It feels impossible. And you wonder why this feels so much harder for you.
You witness your partner experiencing mental freedom, alone time, fun, focus. Things that aren’t really part of your world anymore. Your time feels unimportant. You’re so busy but feel like there’s nothing to show for your hard work at the end of the day. And your workday never seems to end.
It makes so much sense that you’re mad.
What I see clearly in my counselling practice (and with the clarity of personal hindsight) is that “mom-rage” or that shockingly nasty inner dialogue is often a result of unmet needs, and an unsustainable amount of responsibilities weighing on you. Usually, the way through this is to find more support, balance, fairness, and validation within your relationship.
While it’s perfectly normal to feel anger from time to time (you’re human after all), long-standing resentment and steady dissatisfaction in your relationship has serious costs. It begins to chip away at your connection, your joy, and what you hoped this season of your life would feel like. These small bursts of anger or steadily-growing resentment add up over time.
Luckily, I found my way back to myself. We learned how to parent together. My hateful inner dialogue silenced (mostly!). It’s possible, I swear.
Wait a sec! Are you resonating with this story? If you’re ready to dig a little deeper and find a way through this anger, I’ve created an online mini-course that leads you (and your partner) back to connection, healthy communication, and a sense of fairness in your relationship. Is this feeling like a fit for where you’re at in life right now? If so, you canlearn more about the program here.
Hoping to stay in love with your partner forever? Well, you’ve heard before that good relationships require effort. Now is it just me or is there a slightly disappointing element to this advice…wouldn’t it be easier if we just fell in love and that was that?
But you know better, don’t you? Being in love isn’t always enough to keep your relationship in good standing. In fact, “love” is more of something you do rather than a state of arrival or achievement. It’s an action, a way of being and behaving. It’s all the steps you take to create and maintain a fulfilling relationship.
To help you get the ball rolling with doing love in your relationship, I’ve created a complete list of all the actions you can take to maintain that loving feeling between you and your partner.
88 Ways to Stay Madly In Love
Remember that a good relationship is comprised of many different parts, including intimacy, friendship, communication, and of course…individuality!
I’ve included tips for all the most important categories. There might be an area, overall, that you need to up your love game, so just pay attention to where you find yourself focused most and send your energy in that direction!
1. Start the day with a kiss
2. Always kiss goodnight
3. Accept that sex isn’t always perfect
4. Actively create an interesting sex life rather than waiting for your partner to spice it up
5. Tell them exactly what you love about sex with them
6. Be brave and explain what you want them to do differently during sex
7. Openly talk about your sexual fantasies (starting slowly)
8. Make a conscious decision to have sex rather than waiting for the passion to take over (because you might be waiting a long time!)
9. Send sexual text messages during the day
10. Schedule sex in your calendar
11. Flirt with them throughout the day
12. Dress yourself in a way that makes you feel confident and sexy around your partner
Let’s face it, we all say things we shouldn’t from time to time. But there are some phrases that can ruin relationships.
Here’s a list of 8 seemingly innocuous phrases that you should steer clear of in your relationship (and what to say instead).
8 Phrases That Ruin Relationships
1. “I don’t care”
This one makes me laugh (and also cringe as I recall myself saying this in the past). No, it’s not actually funny, but there is something slightly comical about how loaded this phrase truly is.
“I don’t care” actually means one of a few possibilities (none of which are good):
1) I care a lot but it seems pointless to talk to you about it, you won’t get it
2) I want you to figure it out and read my mind
3) I want to test you to see if you accept my bullshit answer
4) Can we stop talking already?
If you tend to say, “I don’t care”, see if you can check in with yourself in those moments and figure out what you are trying to do with that comment. What do you hope will happen?
If your partner says this, get curious and respond with something like, “so do you actually not care about this, or is it something else? “
2. “I’m sorry you feel that way”
When you slow right down and think about this phrase, it actually doesn’t make sense to say that you are sorry for how someone feels. Are their feeling something to apologize for? Did you make them feel that way? Are you actually sorry, or are you just trying to move the conversation along? (And if you truly did something wrong, you should consider saying something more direct like, “I am so sorry for what I did/said, I can see how upset you are about it”).
When you say “I am sorry you feel that way,” it lands like a bullshit dismissal of emotions. As if you are saying, “whelp, sucks to be you, but it’s not how I feel.“
When you use the word “sorry”, make sure to be clear that you are using it in it’s most genuine form, and leave all the patronizing, dismissive, and invalidating bits out.
3. “You always/never…”
No better way to throw gasoline on a fire than to make a generalizing statement. The problem with these words is that they are simply not true. No one always does something, or never does another. You can almost always (HA, there it is) find an exception that proves your partner wrong.
“You never do the dishes!” (Probably just not true…I hope).
“You always act like that!” (There are probably many times they didn’t act like that).
Simply put, using absolute language is inflammatory and usually causes people to get defensive. The focus of the argument shifts to proving your partner wrong rather than getting through the original problem.
(BTW, this FREE training video explains how to get though any argument. Click to learn more)
4. “I’m fine”
Are you really? Like, actually?
How many times have you barked “I’m FINE” to your partner while everyone in the house clearly knows you aren’t. Or better yet, you passively let “I’m fine” roll off your tongue in a snarky way, sending clear messages that you are indeed not fine and your partner better not think for a second that you are!
This comes right down to assertiveness. We can’t expect anyone else (partners included) to read our minds and know what we want/feel/need. Annoying right? Wouldn’t life just be easier if they could?
You have to take responsibility for expressing what’s going on for you by using clear communication. Try these alternatives:
“I don’t really want to talk about it right now, can we talk later?”
“I’m feeling frustrated but not sure how to communicate what’s going on right now.”
“No, I’m not fine. I’m upset but I can feel myself pulling back and I don’t really want to talk.”
5. “Ya, but…”
Hurry up and shut up. Harsh, but true.
Saying “Ya, but” is a way of faking agreement with your partner, and then moving on to what you actually think. “Ya, ok, are you done…this is what I really think.”
Whenever you say the word “but”, you essentially delete whatever you said before that. For example, “I really like your outfit BUT… ” … and everyone holds their breath for what comes next.
“I like you, but…”
“I understand what you are saying, but…”
“I enjoy having sex with you, but…”
See how that works? We don’t even have to know what’s coming next to feel that the person is going to get shut down. Now, of course you are going to have different opinions (this is fine), but try not to negate what your partner says when you express yours.
2 Tips. for this: 1) Add reflection and empathy, and 2) use the word “and” instead of “but.”
“I can tell that you’re upset that I surfed on my phone all evening instead of coming to bed with you. I totally get that and I have felt that way too before. AND I think what’s going on for me is that I need some zone-out time after the kids go to bed.”
See how it takes the sting away?
6. “Why do you feel that way?” (judgemental tone)
Feelings are facts, my friend.
This is the mantra I tell every single couple I work with and has been a foundational principle in my own relationship and family.
Feelings are not up for debate. Feelings are a person’s emotional experience, their automatic felt sense, their reaction, their information source. Feelings give us incredible intel about our relationships (and ourselves). We must welcome them and allow them to teach us.
It’s almost guaranteed that you and your partner will have different emotional reactions in different situations. Neither of you are wrong. Or right for that matter. Emotions just are. They are just there. Let them be.
Asking “why do you feel that way” can invalidate your partner’s experience, or make them feel irrational or unsupported. It also implies that they need to change their emotions. Oftentimes this question comes from the asker’s discomfort with their partner’s emotion, as if to say “Yikes, put those feelings away, they are too intense and I can’t handle them.”
Instead, focus more on hearing and validating your partner rather than understanding WHY they feel a certain way. Do more reflecting and less questioning. Paraphrase or summarize and give your partner a chance to clarify even more.
“Can you help me understand more about how you feel?”
“I can see how upset you are and I really want to make sure I fully get it.”
Building understanding through empathy (rather than interrogation) allows for more peaceful and connected communication.
7. “What’s your problem?”
This reminds me of myself as a teenager. Sound familiar? But we don’t really want to communicate like teens, do we? Didn’t work then, doesn’t work now.
“What’s your PROBLEM?” feels good to say sometimes because it’s a bit of a jab! They have the problem, they are the problem. This is much more comfortable than taking responsibility or even asking compassionate questions. It’s safer to attack, speak harshly, and disconnect.
But anyone who has ever said this to another person knows it doesn’t land well. The person becomes defensive and the conversation usually explodes.
Now, I am all for bringing attention to the elephant in the room. If my partner is clearly agitated but doesn’t acknowledge it, I will directly call him on it. Try pointing out what you see, with curiosity and kindness:
“Hun, you seem really annoyed this afternoon, is there something you want to talk about?”
8. You’re such a X%f*s!n5a!!!
Insert allllll the bad words.
Name calling is bad, my friends. So why do we do it even when we know better?
Swearing at your partner is usually done as a last attempt to gain control, but unfortunately it only does damage to your connection.
Swearing is actually a form of verbal abuse and is absolutely not acceptable. Name calling, put downs, or other aggressive language is a sign that you and your partner aren’t communicating well and need to seek support to get back on track.
Are you a casual swearer? (Don’t worry, I fully support the well placed and non-aggressive f-bomb). But try toning it down in your every-day language so that it becomes a little less easy to roll off your tongue. And if you swear at your partner, no matter what, you must take responsibility, apologize, and make a plan to prevent it in the future.
If you love and respect your partner (and don’t want to ruin your relationship), show them with your words.
No couple is immune to making communication mistakes, but some couples rise to the top when it comes to communication. The more you can bring awareness to your particular challenges and focus your energy there, the more connected you will be.
Looking to learn more about communication mistakes? Check out this popular post with more common mistakes.
In case you still aren’t sure whether you and your partner’s arguing is normal, most (if not all) couples have conflict from time to time. Sure, this conflict looks completely different across couples, where some might passively ignore one another and others have explosive screaming matches. But still, the conflict is there.
And many people are left wondering: Is fighting bad? Is there something wrong with us? And is there a way to fight fair without completely destroying our relationship?
You already know the answer, don’t you? Of course there is a way!
But unfortunately, many people aren’t equipped with the right skills or mindset to get through tricky arguments without doing some damage.
So where do they go wrong? Let’s take a quick look at how couples typically argue.
How Most Couples Fight
1. They lead with their heart (emotions) rather than their head (thoughts)
Now wait a minute, don’t we want to be tapping into our emotions?
Yes, you sure do! But the problem is that many people let their emotions take over the steering wheel, which is basically what happens during a 2-year old temper tantrum. All emotion… no logical thought…we’ve all seen that movie!
When adults put their emotions in the driver’s seat, the argument quickly escalates out of control, especially when both partners are behaving emotionally.
There are probably times when you’ve witnessed you’re own emotions taking control. For example, let’s say you’re mid-fight and you’re about to call your partner a hurful name. You have a quick thought that sounds something like “yikes, don’t say it, that’s a bad idea!”, and then your emotion basically says “Whatever, here’s goes!”
Emotion wins. Feelings are hurt. And the problem persists.
Instead, you need to find a way to access your higher thinking and integrate it with you emotions so that you can make better decisions mid-fight. And unlike that tantruming 2-year old, you actually have the brain-capacity to think through your emotions and make decisions about what shines through (we’ll talk about how to actually do this later).
2. They want to win
Many people fall into the trap of wanting to “win” the argument rather than searching for the best solution for both people. You’ve been here, right? You might even know you’re wrong, but you keep arguing anyway!
People desperately want to be right, to get their point across, to be heard.
But what happens is that when both people work that hard to be right, no one ever gets heard and no one wins. Both parties sit rigidly on their sides, hoping the other caves. And essentially, a lose-lose dynamic is established.
And sometimes a situation is set up where one person always gives in because they can’t tolerate aguing any longer. Eventually, this person is framed up as being “wrong” all the time. In reality, this person is just sick of fighting!
Couples can lose sight of what they are trying to accomplish in exchange for this one-on-one battle. They become unwilling to compromise or to show understanding or sensitivity, and essentially they prioritize themselves above the relationship.
3. They aren’t quite sure what they’re fighting about
Have you ever picked a fight with your partner and you weren’t even sure why?
When this happens, there’s usually some underlying issue (maybe it’s an unresolved conflict, stress, or frustration) that you don’t know how to bring up, so you create a conflict as a way of relieving the tension or finding an avenue to talk about what’s really going on.
As a result, your partner feels attacked (rightfully so) and confused. Sometimes you’re both aware that there’s a different problem you’re avoiding!
It’s not easy to directly address issues in relationships, but when you don’t, they almost always emerge in other ways, as if they’re in disguise! If you find yourself confused about why you’re arguing or what it’s actually about, then ask yourself (or each other) if there is something a little deeper that needs some attention.
The “LongView” and Why You Need It
When I talk about relationships I often refer to the “Longview” to represent perspective. To keep the longview in mind is to maintain perspective about what truly matters.
Pick your battles
There are times when you’ll need to think carefully about what is best for your relationship in the long run. There’ll always be issue to argue about, but do you always need to engage? Are there things that you can let go of? Places to compromise?
And equally importantly, what areas are you absolutely NOT willing to budge on?
I’m not suggesting that you throw away your expectations and boundaries just so that you avoid arguing, no way! But instead, I recommend that you think carefully about what issues deserve your attention, and have the right to disrupt your relationship.
Showing kindness + respect
The longview is also about how you treat one another during arguments. The words you use, your tone, the underlying emotion, the implicit messages that are sent back and forth.
The care, or lack of care. The respect, or lack of respect. The sensitivity or the unnecessary hurt. These are the things that linger far beyond the argument itself.
Keeping the longview in mind is about caring for your partner during arguments. It’s about showing respect, kindness, and love even when you are angry. And yes, this is really hard sometimes (especially when you want to show them the opposite!), but it will take you so far.
11 Fair Fighting Tips
1. Ask questions
When you get curious about your partner during an argument, you show them that you care about their experience. You demonstrate that it’s important for you to see their side of things and to understand where they’re coming from because after all, this is essential if you want to come to a resolution that works for both of you. Plus, if you give some space for your partner to talk, they’ll be less likely to interrupt you when it’s your turn.
2. Watch your tone
That sounds motherly, doesn’t it? But seriously, this is really important (and something that most of us need to remind ourselves!). Tone of voice is packed full of meaning, so consider what messages you send when you speak harshly. See if you can take a breath, and scale back your tone just a bit so that you are more likely to be received in a gentle and kind way. When you speak aggressively or with attitude, your partner is less likely to actually hear you and want to understand you. Instead, they’ll me more likely to fight.
3. Figure out why you’re mad
Make sure you know what you’re mad about, and work hard at acknowledging these issues head on. Usually all it takes is a brief check-in where you ask yourself, “what’s going on here, why am I so mad?” You could also ask yourself what would be different if the scenario was magically fixed, and that gives you clues about what’s bothering you.
Sometimes we unleash our emotions on our partners when they actually have nothing to do with the problem! For example, let’s say you’re stressed about your kids acting up and you end up saying something snippy to your husband about how he left his plate on the table. You aren’t actually mad about the plate, but you’re holding stress about your kids and you just unloaded on your partner because it’s easiest.
Make sure you’re checking in with yourself regularly so that you’re in touch with what’s really bugging you.
4. Get clear about what you want from you partner
It can be really helpful to make a request during an argument as a way to move things along. You might have had the experience when you and your partner go around and around in circles, rehashing the same things and not actually getting anywhere. Well, sometimes making a request can shift this. For example, you might say something like:
“Ok, so we’ve talked about this for a while, and I think you understand why I am upset. Can you please try to put your clothes away after you get changed? That would really hep this situation.”
5. Demonstrate your understanding of their side
Similar to tip #1 (ask questions), it’s incredibly helpful to show that you understand your partner. In fact, this might be the most important tip to take away from this post. Humans are searching for connection and to be understood. And you better believe this drive is operating in your relationship.
So next time you are mid-argument, make an attempt to reflect what your partner is feeling or the message they are trying to get across. And no, don’t do this in a parrot-like way, but rather, in an empathic and kind way. You might say, “wow, I didn’t realize you were feeling so stressed about our finances…I can see how worried you are and how much you feel like you have all the responsibility.”
Notice how you don’t actually have to agree with your partner. You just have so show them you hear them, you’re listening, you get it. Until you show that you understand them, they will keep repeating themselves and digging their heels in, so the earlier the better.
6. Summarize both positions from time to time
It’s helpful to take a step back every once in a while and clarify what’s going on in the argument. Sometimes arguments can take on a life of their own and end up in a completely different place from where they started. See if there’s an appropriate time to pause, and rephrase where things are at. For example, you could say something like:
“Okay, so you feel like I am always nagging you about helping out more around the house, and you feel like you actually do a lot. And I’m feeling like all the household responsibilities fall on me, which is unfair because I have to work too. We’re obviously both feeling like there’s too much on our shoulders.”
Comments like these help position you and your partner side-by-side, facing the problem that’s out there (rather than facing each other and arguing).
7. Consider compromise
If you prioritize your relationship above any one persons needs, then compromising will be an important strategy. If you think about it, it doesn’t really make sense to expect two unique humans to agree on everything, right? But you need to find a way to create harmony and happiness in your relationship. Part of doing that means that you can’t always get exactly what you want at the expense of your partner getting what they want (again, I don’t mean crossing your own boundaries here).
Search for places that you’re willing to loosen up, let go, worry less. If something matters a lot to them, and just a little to you, then maybe that’s the place for wiggle room?
If you can get in the mindset that you, as a couple, as a team, can’t function that well if you are only focused on your individual needs, then you’ll be off to a good start.
8. Express love + kindness
Did you know that anger and love can co-exist? Yup, they sure can. And when you can tap into this skill, the way you argue with your partner will completely transform.
Imagine being filled with anger about a certain issue, but keeping sight of your love and respect for your partner? Imagine being able to communicate your anger without saying hurtful things or damaging your connection?
Try adding love and kindness to your arguments little by little. Phrases like, “I love you AND I am so mad“, or “I love you and I really feel hurt, and don’t want to talk right now” work well. Even statements like “I am really angry, but I know that we will figure this out because we love each other” help both of you acknowledge the problem and at the same time, stay connected.
This takes practice, that’s for sure, but it sure feels amazing to be able to hold all these emotions during an argument, and even enhance the connection to one another once you’re through the fight!
10. Take responsibility where you can
There’s almost always something that you are responsible for during an argument, even when your partner is clearly at “fault.” You can take responsibility for your tone, you willingness to work on the problem, your way of communicating. See if you can take even a little bit of responsibility when you’re arguing, because it’s can disarm your partner’s defensiveness. In a way, they’ll feel like you aren’t actually attacking them, and instead, you’re willing to work together to sort this out.
Once a person feels like they aren’t attacked, they can let their guard down little by little. Only then can productive conversations take place.
11. Keep Private
You don’t always have to express everything you’re feeling, and in fact, you shouldn’t! Can you imagine the damage if your thoughts just flowed right into words? You are allowed to have private inner dialogue and private thoughts. Give yourself permission to sensor yourself and be thoughtful with what you put into words. Because once you do, you can’t take them back!
Make sure to grab the free communication mistakes checklist by clicking the image below, or check out the post about the most common mistakes couples make!
And as always, leave a comment below if there’s anything you’d like to add to the conversation!
Arguing with your spouse might be one of the most universal experiences on the planet. And equally common are the problems that emerge from the way we argue with one another.
I know you’ve had this experience before, where the actual problem is quite manageable: the REAL challenge comes up when you get tangled up in the argument and don’t know how to move through it in a respectful, constructive way.
People say things they don’t mean, act out of defensiveness, feelings are hurt, and more problems are piled on top of the already-stressed couple.
Communication is one of those things that we think we should have dialed-in, but no one actually teaches us anything about it. I bet more people have heard of trigonometry than “I-statements”!
So let’s start by exploring the mistakes you make while arguing with your spouse. They should jump out at you if you’re willing to be honest with yourself! Once you’re aware of your patterns, you’ll know where to focus your energy for change.
Here are the most common communication mistakes I’ve noticed with couples:
Arguing With Your Spouse? The 18 Most Common Communication Mistakes Couples Make
Most people are solely focused on getting their point across that they don’t let the other person finish their thought. This is probably the most common yet detrimental mistake that couples make. When you interrupt someone, you essential convey that what you have to say is more important than what they have to say. And although you might actually feel this way, it’s just not true.
You need to share the air time (meaning don’t hog it either!) and make sure you give each other space to express yourself.
A great strategy is to ask if the other person has finished their thought. Just make sure you don’t say it like you did when you were a teen… “Are you done yet???” Instead, it’s more like: “I want to make sure you had a chance to fully explain yourself, is it okay if I go now?”
2. Speaking Loudly or Yelling
Most of us have been there, and most of us also know that raising our voices is not the healthiest way to communicate. It’s actually pretty aggressive, can be intimidating, and is generally unproductive during an argument. Sure, it might help you release some anger, but it also escalates an argument pretty quickly: when someone attacks you, what do you want to do? Attack back, right? The last thing a person wants to do when someone is yelling at them is to work together, be respectful, or understanding.
So catch yourself when you raise your voice and see if you can turn it down a notch. And instead of matching your partner when they yell, you might try just pointing out that the conversation is getting too loud and you’d rather take a step back. It’s okay to take a break, cool down, and return to the conversation later.
3. Attacking Character
You’ve probably heard the parenting advice to focus on your child’s behaviour rather than their person or character. For example, you might say “you are acting really mean/aggressive/naughty right now” rather than “you are a mean/aggressive/naughty little girl!” Notice the difference? You want your child to understand it’s what they did, not who they are that’s concerning to you.
Well, somehow couples forget to apply this subtlety when communicating with one another. You need to be specific about the action, behaviour, or comment that is upsetting rather than generalizing to some kind of character flaw.
So for instance, you might say: “I’m annoyed that you didn’t take out the garbage this morning after you said that you would” rather than, “You’re so lazy, you don’t want to do anything around here to help out!” The first statement is more specific, fair, and much easier for your partner to digest.
Let’s try turning the table: Imagine if your partner said, “You are really irresponsible and careless with money” or “I’m feeling worried that you spent that much at the grocery store, can we talk about our budget sometime soon?” The first is a character judgement, the second is focused on a specific concern and much more collaborative.
4. Shutting Down The Conversation
Sometimes people want to shut down a conversation if they don’t like how it’s going. To be clear, it’s totally appropriate to take a break from the discussion, or to refuse to engage with a person when they are being aggressive or verbally abusive.
However, it’s unfair to prematurely shut down a conversation when the other person isn’t ready to. Another common pitfall is to just avoid engaging in the conversation to begin with. If you or your partner have genuine concerns that need to be discussed, it’s essential that there is an opportunity to do so. Of course it’s uncomfortable (especially if you’re in the wrong), but it’s imperative to keep communication open if you want to have thriving relationship.
5. Name Calling or Put Downs
Many people don’t realize that name calling is actually verbal abuse. Yes, it’s abusive! It’s intention is to hurt, harm, and control another person. It is never acceptable to verbally abuse any other person, including your partner.
If you find yourself saying things you wish you hadn’t, then take responsibility. Apologize. Talk about what you will do differently next time. And seek professional counselling if you need help getting your anger under control. We all get angry, and we can all learn healthy ways to work through anger.
6. Invalidating Feelings
Ahh this one.
The crux of good (or bad) communication. The rule that I stand by is simply “feelings are facts.” What I mean by this is that you (and you partner) are entitled to your emotions. Your feelings are not up for debate. You can’t be convinced out of them, or told they aren’t true.
Your feelings are your emotional reaction to a situation. You own them, they are yours and yours only. It’s incredibly upsetting when someone tells you your feelings are wrong, inappropriate, and they need to change.
Couples must accept that they can have different feelings about the same situation, and that both are true. You might feel hurt, but you partner might not have been hurt in that same situation, but it doesn’t discount the fact that you are having a hurt emotional experience. That’s YOUR experience.
See what I’m saying here?
We invalidate one another when we say things like:
“Oh, you’re crying right now?”
“How can you be mad about that!?”
“You cannot be jealous about that!”
Instead, couples should focus on gaining a better understanding of what lead their partner to that particular emotional experience, stating that they would never have intended for them to feel this way. It’s all about working toward understanding, and allowing space for one another to feel however the heck they feel!
Feelings are facts, my friends.
7. Swearing or Other Aggressive Language
Just stop swearing. It’s rude. Mean. Aggressive. Find a way to actually articulate what you’re angry about instead. See #5.
8. Bringing Up Past Issues
There are times when it might be appropriate to identify patterns or certain issues that keep arising. For example, you might have made a request several times and your partner continues to ignore your request. In this case, it’s appropriate to say something like, “You know, I’ve asked you about this several times before and I’m really hoping you’re hear me this time.”
Couples get into trouble when they bring up past issues that have already been addressed, and they are used as ammunition during an argument. In general, it’s unfair to hold something over your partners head, digging it back up any time you need to fight back.
For instance, couple’s argue about money a lot. Let’s say that last year you charged $1000 on your joint credit card and lied to your partner about it. After they found out, you had a big argument, worked through it, committed to not doing the same thing again. Now a year later, you have an argument and they bring up the credit card issue again.
There are times where this is simply not fair. Avoid bringing up past issues just to add weight to your side of the argument. And further, don’t use a past discretion as a reason to make a similar mistake later on (“well, you spent a grand last year, whatever, I just did the same thing, how can you be mad?”).
This just launches a never-ending retaliation cycle and isn’t conducive for a healthy relationship.
9. Refusing To Take Responsibility
It always takes two to argue. Always. In any relationships, there is something that you can take responsibility for. I typically encourage couples to consider what role they play in the problem, and what part they can take responsibility for.
If you truly feel like you’ve done nothing wrong, then consider what you can do to make the conflict go a little better. Can you change your tone? Ask more thoughtful questions? Be more compassionate?
People generally want the other person to be at fault, but this is not usually how it works in reality. Put your pride aside and take on some responsibility.
And for those times when you are clearly in the wrong, make sure you aren’t making excuses or blaming others. The fastest way out is to just own your mistakes, apologize, and focus your energy on what to do next.
10. Avoiding Eye Contact
Eye contact can be extremely vulnerable, particularly during conflict. Think of young kids (or even dogs, dare I make the comparison!) when they are in trouble…they usually turn their gaze down, and avoid eye contact.
Knowing that it’s normal to want to disengage when you’re arguing with your spouse, just know that connecting with one another will usually help. So instead of avoiding connection, making eye contact can bring back your humanness, remind you of your connection, and also signify that you are present, listening, and respecting your partner.
If it feels impossible to do this, try naming it: “It’s really hard for me to look at you right now, I’m so upset.“
11. Disrespectful Body Language
Rolling your eyes. Throwing your hands in the air in exasperation. Irritated expressions. Schlumping down into your chair (Yes, schlumping). These are all non-verbal cues that send pretty clear messages back and forth.
Try to be mindful of what your body is saying and consider whether this is the message you actually want to send. Admittedly, sometimes it’s easier to show with your body that you’re irritated than to assertively say, “I’m so annoyed right now, can we talk about this?” The choice is yours, but makes sure you are aware that body language is powerful!
12. Is Always “Right”
There is sometimes a dynamics between couples where one person always seems to be “right”. No matter what the argument is about, that same person comes out feeling like they haven’t done anything wrong and the other one is to blame.
Usually what happens is even when that “right” person is actually in the wrong, they tend to blame their partner for being sensitive, touchy,jealous, always angry, or other character attacks that shift of focus away from themselves.
For example: maybe your spouse stayed out late drinking with his friends (again) after he said he’d be home early. When you address this issue, he shifts the focus toward how “you are always coming down on him.“
No one is always right. There absolutely must be some room for the other person’s opinion and experience to matter. And ultimately, a successful relationship isn’t about winning or being right or wrong, but rather, it’s about getting through challenges by prioritizing your relationships rather that you as individuals.
13. Using Exaggerated Language
This is a classic mistake that I think we’ve all made, and it goes a little something like this:
“Why do you always act like you’re annoyed”
“You never show me affection!”
“You’re always picking fights with me!”
The problem with these kinds of statements is that they simply cannot be true. There’s no way someone is always annoyed, never ever shows any affection, or always picks fights. Exaggeration is usually used to express strong emotions, but it typically creates defensiveness for the recipient.
When someone uses this kind of language to me, for instance, my first reaction is to search for exceptions to what they said. “Whatever, I wasn’t annoyed this morning…I kissed you last night!…and you are the one to pick fights with me!” Clearly, it’s just not conducive to creative problem solving.
14. Refusing to Discuss The Issue
You know when you really want to talk about something and your parter just shuts you down? Not fun, is it? Refusing to discuss something that the other person thinks is important is quite simply unfair, and creates resentment.
Also, it’s invalidating to demonstrate that you aren’t interested in what your partner is bothered by. If it’s concerning to them, it should be concerning to you as well (simply because it’s on their mind!). Give one another the respect of at least listing, and more ideally, discussing the topic at hand.
15. Unwilling To Empathize (Step in Other’s Shoes)
I believe that one of our basic needs is to be understood and accepted by those we love. And likewise, one of the most valuable acts we can do for our spouse is to work at understanding and accepting them as they are.
It is incredibly difficult to empathize (show your understanding) when you’re arguing with your spouse. In fact, usually you don’t want to understand them at all, and you’d rather just keep talking about your side of things (it’s normal, we all do this!).
But this is a big mistake! While showing your understanding is hard, it’s likely the most valuable thing you can do when you’re arguing. You can do this by reflecting how you think they feel, or paraphrasing the issue.
For example, you might say, “okay, so I can hear you are really angry about the way I spoke to you this morning…you didn’t like the way I was talking to you and you felt like I was being harsh.“
Once you paraphrase, don’t defend yourself! Don’t add the “…but the reason I did that was …” That basically erases whatever you said before.
Instead, consider adding something like “…and that is certainly not how I intended to speak to you or to make you feel.” Once someone takes the brave step to empathize with the other, the energy immediately begins to settle down. It’s quite incredible, really!
16. Unwilling To Think As A Team (“Me” Instead of “We”)
To have a successful relationship, you and your parter need to approach the world as a team. Sure, you are both unique individuals and most certainly should maintain your separate selves all the way through.
However, a conscious effort to prioritize “us” rather than “me” is really important.
So for example, let’s imagine that you argue about who get’s more time out with friends (and a break from the kids). It’s easy to get into a “me vs. you” conflict where you are only focused on your own needs. However, when you consider what is best for you as a couple, you might be able to align a little bit better and feel less attacked.
Maybe you acknowledge that you both need time away, and that you really want the other person to feel like they have enough social time. Once you have a united goal, you can get creative and work together to figure out a solution (rather than continue to argue about who has it worse).
17. Making Assumptions
No matter how well you know your spouse, it’s dangerous territory to make assumptions about their decisions, behaviours, thoughts, or intentions. You don’t actually know what’s going on for them, and you likely don’t understand them better than they understand themselves.
Instead, try to maintain an attitude of curiosity rather than assuming you already know. Ask questions, wonder, genuinely show your curiosity and be open to what your spouse has to say.
18. Getting Distracted
This is a big issue in this digital era! Couples all-too-often pick up their phones during an argument. Yikes!
Don’t respond to a text, call someone, or pick up your phone to see what the alert was. And by no means surf your socials mid-discussion. That’s a pretty clear way to say that you’d rather be doing a lot of other things (like wasting your time on the internet) than talk to your partner.
And to be honest, sometimes this might be true! I’d rather look at beautiful photos than argue! But always keep the long view in mind and prioritize your relationships, especially during hard times.
Which communication mistakes are you making when you’re arguing with your spouse? And what other’s would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments which ones resonates most!
And remember that good communication is a skill, meaning that we actually need to learn and practice how to do it well! If you find yourself arguing with your spouse more than you’d like, use this checklist to figure out where you are going wrong and focus you energy there!
If you google “relationship tips” you’ll almost certainly come across the advice to “never go to bed mad.”
Well, I call bull shit.
This old-school advice is problematic for a few reasons, mainly that it completely discounts the value of unpleasant emotions (yup, they have value!). And typically, people end up feeling like they have done something wrong if they fall asleep without ridding themselves of those emotions. Not that realistic, is it?
Here are 5 reasons that “don’t go to bed mad” doesn’t actually work for couples, and what you should do instead.
5 Reasons “Don’t Go To Bed Mad” Isn’t The Best Relationship Advice
1. It implies that anger is bad
My biggest issue with this relationship tip is that it assumes anger is something to avoid. That it’s actually not okay to feel anger for any length of time, or that anger itself is going to somehow damage a relationship. The thing is, if you or your partner are feeling angry, the offense has already happened, so to speak. Anger is the response, not the stimulus.
And more importantly, anger is a incredibly valuable emotion that we must give ourselves (and our partners) permission to experience. It is chalk full of information that guides you and your partner to solve problems. It lets you know where your boundaries lie, what you value, what you need and expect.
Instead of prematurely shoving it away or expecting your partner to move along, give yourself some space to listen, fully understand, and completely feel the emotion.
And by the way, the only way anger goes away is when you actually feel it. All of it. So “getting over it” before you are actually ready doesn’t solve anything and that same anger will just resurface later. Darn, hey?
2. It assumes that the problem can be resolved within a short time frame
Why are we told that “bedtime” somehow signifies when we need to be finished arguing, dissolve our anger, and feel in love again? Bedtime has absolutely nothing to do with resolving conflict (unless of course having sex is part of your conflict resolution plan…which is sometimes a great idea).
But really. The last thing a couple needs is to feel rushed to resolve a conflict, forgive, reach an agreement, get over it, just because it’s almost bedtime. What’s even more common is for couples to stay up until ridiculous hours of the morning to avoid going to bed mad…because 3am discussions are usually really helpful. Not.
So let’s stop assuming that most problems can be resolved in an evening. Sure, sometimes this might be the case but we must also respect these issues that arise and not rush through them.
Again, conflict is loaded with value…give yourself the benefit of fully realizing that value (the learning, growth, and subsequent understanding and connection).
3. It doesn’t account for different processing speeds
What does this mean? Let me give you an example:
You are laying in bed with your husband and you want to talk it out. That’s your style, to talk until it’s done. You want to get to the bottom of the argument, to hear an apology, to know that he understands your perspective, to hear how things will be different next time… and so it goes.
But your husband doesn’t have much to say. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear, and in fact, he doesn’t really say much at all. Then he starts falling asleep, which only infuriates you! How could he be sleeping when you are abolsutely wired and and really upset!?
Been in this situation? I sure have.
We need to accept that people process their thoughts and emotions very differently. Some are quick to articulate themselves, others need time to figure out how to communicate what matters most.
Giving one another ample space to thoughtfully process the conflict, and consider how to best communicate is critical. In fact, rushing through this can cause a lot of damage. If you push communication (or resolving conflict) too fast, people tend to say things they don’t mean, be harsh with their words, aggressive or emotional.
Time allows some of the energy to diffuse. It allows more thoughtfulness and less defensiveness. It encourages both partners to be open to what the other has to say rather than rigidly defending themselves.
4. It encourages a person to “get over it” faster than they might want to, or are ready for
Do you ever just want to be mad? You don’t really want to get over it, you want to sit in your anger a little longer? (It’s kind of powerful, isn’t it?)
Even as I say that, I feel a little childish. Like my toddler who tries to be “an-gy” at me and quickly forgets why.
But in all honesty, sometimes we want to be mad and sometimes that’s okay (provided you aren’t being manipulative and mean). No, I don’t suggest that you should unnecessarily get in a foul mood and refuse to budge. But instead, I encourage you to actually allow yourself to be mad as long as you need to…your partner doesn’t get to rush you through. Sometimes it just takes a little more time to come around, to process, to truly feel finished with whatever emotions you’re stuck on.
You’ve got to feel them to get through them.
And this goes both ways, don’t forget! For most of us humans, it’s pretty uncomfortable when someone isn’t happy with us. You know this right? You want to be forgiven. It’s brutal when someone is upset with you. And at the same time, you can’t rush someone to move on just to bring yourself relief from the discomfort of being in the dog house.
Just be in the dog house for a while.
Allow your partner the space to feel their emotions without expecting them to move along too quickly. And notice how they’ll give you the same space in return.
And. This doesn’t usually happen by bedtime.
5. It discounts the benefit of a fresh, rested mind
You know the meme: “don’t blame me for what I said when I was hungry”? Well, I think being tired and stressed is equally mind-altering as being hangry.
Seriously. Now, I have had my share of late night conflict and I tell you, staying up until the wee hours of the morning doesn’t usually help.
Typically, one person gets frustrated that the other is falling asleep, and then stews angrily for hours while listening to the other person snore…or even worse…sleep peacefully.
And further, a tired mind usually isn’t the best at problem solving, at being empathic or sensitive, at listening or asking thoughtful questions. It is actually incredibly challenging to have a respectful and productive problem-solving conversation at the best of times, so consider saving it for the next day when you are more rested. Just be sure to actually create time to have the conversation so that you trust one another the next time a late night conflict emerges.
Oh, and one more thing: sleep is magic. Have you ever woken up and solved a problem in your sleep? Sometimes a little rest is just the thing you needed.
So we’ve talked about why it’s okay to go to bed angry, and I hope you feel some relief that you aren’t damaging your relationship by doing so.
Now let’s also take a look at some ideas to support you and your partner through the conflict (knowing that you don’t have to resolve it tonight!).
How To Go To Bed Angry and Still Have a Great Relationship
1. Identify and communicate your feelings
Don’t rush yourself out of your emotions. Check in, notice what is there, and talk about these with your partner. And get serious about your partner’s feelings too. What are they experiencing? Is there anything they’d like to share?
And just a reminder: feelings are facts.
We are all entitled to “feel” the way we do (provided we are actually talking about feelings, not something like “I feel like you are cheating on me.” That’s not a feeling, that’s a thought…unless you are psychic… then it’s more like a “sense”).
But if your partner says they feel worried, sad, hurt, embarrassed, etc…you must listen and accept it. Emotions are not up for debate. Even if your emotions are different (which they almost always will be), you still cannot refute your partner’s feelings. The fastest way to damage a relationship is to invalidate feelings, so please take this point to heart!
2. Be respectful
You can experience strong emotions, have negative thoughts, and still maintain a solid connection with your partner.
Yup, it’s true.
By focusing on respectful communication (without intentionally hurting or dismissing the other), you are more likely to be heard, get what you want, resolve the conflict, and maintain your relationship.
Keep the long view in mind. Consider how, in general, you want to treat you partner (hopefully with love and kindness) and try to hold onto this especially during conflict.
3. Love and anger can coexist.
Many people are fearful of anger, and feel incredibly vulnerable when their partner is unhappy with them. What couples need to demonstrate to one another through their actions and words is that love and anger are separate.
In other words, feeling angry doesn’t erase the love that is shared between you. Good news, right?
Given that, I want you to try using what I call the “AND Approach.” This is a communication strategy where you pair ideas together rather than thinking they’re separate.
In this scenario, you are pairing LOVE with your other feelings (ANGER / SADNESS / DISSAPPOINTMENT). For example, when you’re arguing at night and not making progress, you might say “I’m really angry right now AND I love you”, or “I am so frustrated right now, AND I love you, let’s talk more tomorrow.”
You can have it all! Be angry, and be in love. It’s all good.
Adults are capable of holding multiple emotions at the same time. We can’t allow our sense of love and security in our relationships to be shaken by anger or other “negative” emotions. We are humans, and therefore we are most certainly going to feel all of these. Let them co-exist.
Alright my friends, I hope you leave with a sense of relief about those times you went to bed angry! Remember to make room for what’s there, allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling, and trust that a fresh mind can sometimes do wonders!