Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar:
You’ve set up the car pools for the kids for the week, you’ve shopped for and made dinner (and this was difficult because of little Jimmy’s recently diagnosed gluten allergy), you’ve emailed back and forth all day about some things you needed to do for a PTA meeting on Wednesday, you stopped and picked up your husband’s dry cleaning and you scheduled a guy to take down the big tree whose roots have made your driveway look like a skatepark.
Then, your husband gets home and thinks it’s a good idea to sneak in some sex before you all have to go pick up the kids from their respective sports practices. You’re exhausted already and still have a full night of kids, homework, baths and more emails and you’ve time managed yourself down to the second to get all this done. You did NOT factor in sex with your hubby.
When you rebuff his advances he complains, “You never want to have sex anymore – you don’t make time for me!” You’re pissed and you quickly start to tick off your LONG list of all the things you’ve done today.
Have you ever done this? Your partner tells you something they need; you get defensive and you end up ticking off that long list of things you’ve done?
This is keeping score. You’ve got your scorecard (and it’s full) so you think you’re covered. Well, you’re not and, once again, this competition puts you in the loser’s seat. If it was up to your husband, he’d rather you all ordered in a pizza, the kids went to bed slightly stinky and he got a blow job! Your list means nothing to him. The things on your list are all about what you deem important and necessary. I’m not saying that the things you want to do aren’t real and worthy – I’m sure they are.
I’m saying that if you say your relationship is a high priority in your life, but your partner actually ends up with the leftovers of your energy, then something is wrong.
If a strong relationship is your goal, and your partner tells you they feel ignored in some way, then listing all the ways you don’t ignore them isn’t the answer! Your scorecard doesn’t matter to your partner! Instead, ask your partner what they would like to see more of in the relationship. What could you do to let your partner know they’re a priority? Reading off your list is about being you being “right” – it’s not about your partner (or you) being happy.
It’s amazing that so often our partners tell us what they need and then we end up telling them they’re wrong. “I want to spend more time with you.” You answer: “We spend tons of time together!” We did this, this and this and you end up listing all the ways you’ve spent time.
But you’re not listening and you’re creating disconnection. It doesn’t matter what you have or haven’t done. It matters how your partner feels. Instead of listing all the things you’ve done or telling them why they’re wrong, ask questions!! Your immediate response whenever you get this kind of feedback should only be one thing: Ask questions and don’t make statements.
- “Can you tell me more about x?”
- “Can you give me one or two specifics about when I’ve done x?”
- “If you knew I prioritized you, what kinds of things would I be saying/doing?”
- “If I could do one thing right now to let you know I hear you, what would that be?”
I’d like you to listen as if you’re wrong. Your partner is trying to communicate something and you shutting down the conversation ends with everyone feeling frustrated and distant.
Really listen next time your partner asks you for something or tells you how they’re feeling. I’ve got an AMAZING exercise to help you with this. I call it the Check-In Exercise and you can get it right here.