(RE)ENGAGING YOUR PARTNER CONSTRUCTIVELY

Reading a Partner’s Response

Once you begin the conversation, you will also need to monitor your partner’s response. Research consistently shows that how your partner acts or reacts in times of disagreement, conflict, or distress determines whether you should remain together and can be happy as a couple.

Cooperative Response. When you express your feelings constructively, there are three things you should look for in your partner’s response.

  • Does your partner make the effort to listen to what you have to say?
  • Does he or she validate your point of view?
  • Does he or she show concern for how you’re feeling?

If you answer yes to these questions, your partner is probably doing his or her best to listen to you, and that’s a good sign. You can also determine if your partner is being responsive by simply asking yourself if you feel understood, validated, and cared for when expressing your feelings. If you do, then things are headed in the right direction.

Dismissive Response. If your partner is dismissive and shuts down or stops listening, take note of it. Most people are good at noticing when a partner isn’t responding to their concerns in an empathetic way, but few know what to do when it happens. Don’t immediately respond to their indifferent reaction with accusatory or negative expressions—that would negate all the effort you’ve put into dealing with the issue constructively. There’s a difference between noting how people behave and reacting to how they behave.

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