How to Communicate So Your Partner Hears You
Updated: Aug 3
You’ve tried begging, pleading, yelling, screaming, crying, threatening, leaving, and everything under the sun.
It seems like you can’t get through to your partner. They just don’t seem to listen.
It’s so freakin’ frustrating. You wanna pull your hair out.
You’re not sure if you’re partner just doesn’t get it or maybe they just don’t care.
Either way, they both hurt.
If any of this sounds like you, join the club.
I used to do ALLLLLL of the above, and still felt like my husband just did not hear me. Well, maybe that’s not true. He must have heard me because he was able to repeat back – word for word, mind you – as if he hadn’t processed a darn thing. He sounded like a parrot, repeating my words back to me. So, of course he heard me, but he really didn’t understand and process what I had said to him?
Fast forward to today. What a difference.
I’ve taken some couples counselling training courses and learned some solid techniques for communicating with my partner so he could understand what I was saying.
Do you wanna know the secret?
Well, this is it.
There really is a formula that opens up communication and makes it so your partner doesn’t feel attacked. If they feel attacked, they’ll SHUT DOWN. The formula goes like this:
1. When you…………
When you start off, make sure you are clear, specific and to the point. Don’t get all rambly, because your partner will tune you out.
Use descriptive, objective, neutral language. This means, avoid labeling such as, “When you’re being a jerk” or “When you act like you don’t love me”. This is too broad and too judgemental.
Stick to the facts, like a cop or a scientist. Describe what you see and hear. For example, “When you came home at 3am, I could smell alcohol on your breath.” Or, “I asked you to please wash the dishes and today I see they were still on the counter.”
I like to think of it like this, “If I was a fly on the wall, and I was watching the behaviour/ conversation, what would I see.” These are the facts that go into this sentence.
2. I feel…………..
This is where you let your partner know how you feel. Let them know about your emotions and mood.
Be very careful to own your feelings and do not blame your partner for your feelings. You can respond to your partner in a kazillion different ways. Your feelings are YOUR feelings. Own them.
Avoid saying things like, “You make me so mad” or “You make me feel insecure.” Instead, just own the feelings, “I feel mad” or, “I feel insecure when you…..”
3. This makes me think………
This is where you own your thoughts and interpretations. Chances are you will see the situation differently from how your partner sees the situation. Do not make assumptions about your partners intentions. For example, avoid saying things like, “You were trying to make me mad” or “You purposely avoided the dishes.”
Sometimes, in this step, this is opportunity to talk about the deeper feelings and beliefs that are being triggered.
When I asked you to wash the dishes, and you left them on the counter.
I feel mad and hurt.
This makes me think that I’m less important or my time is less important, because now I have to do the dishes.
Be careful not to blame your interpretation on your partner. This is opportunity to link it back to old hurts and old beliefs, such as, “it reminds me of when I had to take on so much responsibility in my family with my parents.”
4. I need…………
In this step you ask for what you need. Make sure you are clear, specific and concrete. For example, asking for more love or more physical contact is not specific enough. You will have to ask for more hand holding, snuggling, sex or whatever it is that makes you feel loved or represents physical contact.
This is opportunity to talk about corrective behaviour and not punishing feedback. Rather than rehashing what your partner did “wrong”, “bad”, “hurtful” or “inappropriate”. Tell them what you need, want or expect.
Do not expect your partner to read your mind. Yes, even after 27 years with my husband, believe it or not, we still cannot read each others’ mind. Yes, we know each other well, however we can NOT predict EXACTLY what the other person is thinking.
It’s a necessary skill to ask for what you want, otherwise your needs may never be meet.
Now that you have this formula. Print it out. Talk to your partner about it. Agree to work on it. And, post these steps on your fridge.
The next time you’re feeling stuck in a discussion (or in an argument), follow these steps and see how your conversation can improve.
If you need support working through these steps, call or book a counselling appointment today.