If Your Partner Says There’s a Problem, What Should You Do?
If your partner comes to you with a problem or concern about the relationship, how do you respond? Maybe they are unhappy with you or something you are doing. Does it make you feel under pressure, defensive or frustrated. You can respond in many ways, some more productive than others. The typical fight, flight or freeze response can be seen in relationships but are not healthy choices. If your partner has a problem and wants to discuss it with you they would hope that you would listen to their concern and work with them to find a solution but that is not always the case.
The fight response results in anger, arguments and hurt feelings. This breaks down the emotional connection and the ability to be honest and vulnerable in the relationship. When your partner shares their concern they don’t want to then have to deal with you becoming angry and fighting with them. This only increases your stress level.
The flight response results in a feeling of abandonment. If when your partner shares their concern, you leave the room or slams the door and walks away tyou might feel safe because you have avoided the stress but they feel alone with their problem with no partner to stand with them and solve it together.
The freeze response usually results in frustration. Again they share their concern which causes stress in you because you don’t want to hear that they are unhappy with you or something that you have done. You may feel attacked and you don’t know how to respond so you just freeze or listen quietly, maybe even agreeing but in the long run nothing changes. There is not action taken. The problem remains which is frustrating.
There needs to be freedom and safety in your relationship to share a concern. One of the basic relationship needs is compassion which means that if your partner has a problem then you need to be concerned and want to help them. When they share their concern they want to know that you are listening, that you understand and that you are not being judgmental or dismissive. At his moment it is not about you, try to think of how they are feeling and how you can help.
I know that this is not easy, your own insecurities surface, you want to defend your behavior but dismissing their concern and focusing on your own defense or stress level will not solve the problem. Try not to see it as a battle which involves you on one side and your partner on the other. Instead look at it as both of you on the same side, standing together to battle the thing that is causing the stress. You are united, working together to build a relationship that works for each of you.
Communicating your concerns in a safe environment, listening to each other and avoiding the fight, flight or freeze response will build a healthy foundation for each of you. It takes practice and if you need help then give me a call at 562-260-4796. I would be happy to support you.
Written by Lisa Strong