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Make It All About You

Eventually and inevitably that perfect somebody that you decided to spend the rest of forever with, is going to get on your last nerve. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Every relationship, no matter how strong, has its ups and downs. And, every partner, given enough time, is going to upset their significant other.

Now, the level of frustration will vary among couples, but odds are there will be a time when you’ll want to convey those frustrations to your partner. But, when you are upset or hurt or angry, it’s tough to express your feelings without your partner feeling attacked, becoming defensive or feeling the need to retaliate.

The best way to express your feelings to your partner in a civil, mature and adult manner in which they will listen and respond appropriately is through “I” statements.

“I” statements are ways of expressing your feelings to your partner by putting the focus on you and what you are feeling, rather than on them and what they are doing “wrong”.

To do an “I” statement properly, you’ll have to follow four steps:

Step 1: “How do you feel?”
Phrasing “I” statements correctly can be the difference between getting the results you want and complete disaster. You want to start you “I” statement with “I” rather than “You”. If you start with “You”, you’re focusing on your partner’s faults right out the gate. When you start with “I”, followed by “feel”, the focus is on you and your feelings, which cannot be denied.

The third word must be a feeling (sad, angry, frustrated, disappointed, etc…), and not “that” or “like”. When you use “I feel that…” or “I feel like…”, the next word tends to be “you”, and you’re back to switching focus.

Step 2: “When what?”
After you tell your partner how you feel, you need to tell them when you feel that way: I feel lonely when you come home late from work…

Yes, at this point you may use “you”, because, although it’s your feeling, that feeling is associated with their actions. So, your partner must know that their action is the trigger for that feeling.

Step 3: “Why?”
This third step is CRUCIAL. You can tell your partner that you feel a specific way when they do something, but they may not be able to connect the feeling with the action (“I don’t get why you feel frustrated when I go out with my friends.”) So, you must be able to articulate the “why”. Therefore, the next word has to be “because”.

But again, you can’t use “you” after “because”, for that puts your partner in a defensive position again, and, when they are defending, they are not listening. If they don’t listen, the problem cannot be resolved.

“I feel lonely when you come home late from work, because we used to spend so much time together. Now we see each other far less than we used to.”

Step 4: “What now?”
Finally, give your partner your need. What would you like? How can they change so you will feel more comfortable? Your partner may truly not know how to make things better. So, your job is to get them moving in the right direction using, “I’d like…”

“I feel lonely when you come home late from work, because we used to spend so much time together. Now we see each other far less than we used to. I’d like you to try to come home earlier at least twice a week, and if you must be late, to give me a call.”

This doesn’t mean that your partner will be able to give you want you’d like, but it opens up the lines of communication and allows you two to work toward a compromise, if needed.

The “I” statement is a powerful key tool that should be included in every couple’s arsenal of communication devices. It will help your relationship to stay strong and balanced. Give it a try sometime.