How well do you connect in your relationship? Connection is a word I hear a lot from clients. Deep connection. Emotional connection.
“There’s no connection in my relationship.” “We’re not connecting.” “I don’t feel connected to my partner.”
This post is the first in a series of posts that addresses connection in relationships. One way for connection to happen is when we send clear messages to our partners that are accurately received by them – and when our partners are sending messages to us that are also being received. This means the way we are sending messages is important.
I-statements vs. You-accusations
How do you tell your partner that you have a problem in the relationship? Do you immediately start the blame train?
“You didn’t show up on time again!” “You never do anything you say!“ “You don’t help with anything around this house!”
The problem with using “YOU” to lead off a relationship discussion is that it’s really accusatory.
“But, yea, it IS his fault! I am accusing him of doing those things because he is doing them!”
Ok, ok, I get it. You feel very strongly that he has come home from work once again and does nothing, meanwhile you have done the dishes, folded the clothes, scrubbed the toilet, and made dinner. But let’s consider the effectiveness of this kind of conversation.
(you) “You never help me with anything! You literally do nothing around here!”
(your partner) “Yea, well, you never help me with the yard work!” or “You always complain about this same stuff over and over again!” or “You are never happy with anything I do anyway!”
“You” sounds blame-y and sets us up to get a defensive response. Blame and defense does not build connection, it destroys it.
So what can you do instead?
Here’s where the I-statement comes into play. Let be honest, this thing you’re bringing up is a problem that you have – probably not one that your partner has. And since it’s a real problem you’re struggling with, we want him to hear you out – not prove you wrong.
So consider this – why is it a problem for you? How does it affect you that he isn’t helping around the house? How does it make you feel that you’re the only one washing dishes and clothes? Use that information to form your message. Maybe that sounds something like this:
“I feel really overwhelmed and stressed out. I feel like I’m doing all of these things around the house and it’s too much for me to handle. I don’t get any time for myself”
An I-statement is one that fosters connection. You are sharing feelings and letting your partner know how you are affected by something that is happening. You are not blaming or accusing. You are inviting your partner into your experience.
Now, the I-statement will probably not fix all of your communication and connection problems in one conversation. But if you are feeling there is a lack of connection, this is a good first step. Stay tuned for more posts about fostering connection in relationships, or seek out a professional to help you and your partner address the disconnection in your relationship. (We support couples counseling, marriage counseling, relationship counseling at any stage in a relationship!)