The Power of “I”

How often do you tell your partner how they make you feel (“YOU make me so angry… YOU have upset me…)?

When you are upset with your partner, and decide to let them know, how many of your sentences start with “YOU always…….YOU never……YOU don’t…….”?

I imagine this sounds really familiar to you. I hear couples use this language on a daily basis.

The problem is, it’s not strictly correct. What if I were to tell you that nobody has the power to make you feel a certain way? That your feelings – which are completely valid and true for you – are a result of your own internal reaction to your partner’s behaviour?

Have you noticed, for example, how some things bother some people and not others? Some people love to be out in the sunshine and warmer climates, but feel miserable and want to retreat when it rains.  Some people actively avoid the sun and the heat, but love the rain, and relish being in a cooler climate.

I wrote a post recently about how we all have our own, individual “lenses”, through which we view the World. (CLICK HERE to read it). These lenses, which are shaped by our own experience, are connected to our core beliefs about ourselves, the world, and other people. The view through each person’s lens will be different and unique to each of us. These will directly affect what triggers our negative (and positive) feelings. There may be behaviour in your partner that you just don’t notice, or have tuned out, to the point where it may not bother you, but would really bother someone else. And likewise, there may be things that your partner says or does which infuriate you, but that someone else wouldn’t even notice.

“But my partner’s behaviour can be completely unacceptable!”…….”Sometimes I feel downright insulted”…….. “My feelings are a completely rational response to my partner’s unacceptable behaviour”

………I hear you say.  And this may well be true. This is not to say that there aren’t some behaviours in any relationship that are completely unacceptable.

However, your feelings are your own and they are not controlled by anyone else. You have complete ownership of them. When you use “You” statements like the ones above, you are effectively giving away your power, and it might inflame an argument because your partner might feel accused. If you were to use “I” statements instead,  the outcome might be very different.

Consider the following scenario; your partner tells you last minute that they have made plans to go away for the weekend with their friends, without checking with you first. You feel furious, because you have said all week how much you have been looking forward to spending time together at the weekend, and even had a romantic dinner planned. And you might feel completely justified in being angry. But in order to have an open discussion about your feelings without things escalating into a blazing row, it’s how you deliver your feelings that is important.

Consider the following statement:-

“You’ve made me really angry by making plans without asking me, and just assuming I would be fine with it. Well I’m not! How could you do this?!”

Now consider this:-

“I hear you say that you have made arrangements to go away with your friends this  weekend, although it’s something we hadn’t discussed together. In fact we had spoken in the week about the plans I had made for us. When you told me this, I felt hurt and angry”.

The second statement is easier for your partner to hear as it’s not accusatory, is factual and specific, and is a lot more open.  Crucially, you take responsibility for your own feelings, rather than telling your partner that they “made” you feel that way. Not only do you get to say exactly how you feel, you articulate it more clearly and incerase the chances of your partner listening to you!

So if you are feeling triggered by something your partner has said our done, remember to use “I feel” rather than “You made me feel”.

If you found this helpful please feel free to download my free Communication Guide for Couples – a six page e-guide with more advice on the key principles of effective communication!

And please do post your comments below.

And remember – maintain your relationship and watch it thrive!

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