In last week’s blog, I introduced the topic of broaching relationship conversations with your partner. Over the coming weeks, you will see posts laying out specific tools and examples to help makes those conversations easier. The first one is essential to any communication with your romantic partner:
Differentiate between thoughts and feelings
Discriminating between thoughts and feelings can be especially difficult, but this distinction is important if you want to stay grounded and want your partner to participate in the work. I encourage people to differentiate between:
- what has happened (what a video camera would show)
- the thoughts you have about it (what meaning have you attributed to what happened)
- how you feel about it (what emotions have been triggered)
- and what you want (your request)
Let me give you an example. You might say, “I feel like you don’t value the contribution I make to the family,” but this is not a feeling statement. (Feelings fall into one of four basic categories: sad, mad, glad or afraid.) You probably feel sad and resentful, but you think your partner does not appreciate you and you think they don’t value what you do. This distinction defuses the tension because acknowledging that you have added your own meaning to the feelings underscores that they are just your thoughts; they are not absolute or even necessarily correct.