From Biblical Proverbs to Shakespearean plays to common modern idioms we can find wise counsel that the outcome of any event is most dependent on how it starts. Even rappers know this truth–” You know where it ends yo, it usually depends on where you start!” (“What It’s Like;” Everlast)
A common mistake in marriages is that of beginning what we hope will be a discussion of possible solutions to an issue with a harsh verbal attack of blame and demands. Invariably the result of such a beginning will be an ending that is as bad or worse than the start. No lasting resolution will be found and the trust and safety of the relationship will be violated.
While there are many keys to ensuring healthy and productive communication on thorny issues, a “soft start” is a crucial one. You can let your partner know of your concerns without turning it into personal attack or a blame-game.
When we criticize our partners, their natural instinct is toward defensiveness which leads to either counter-aggression or “checking out” of the discussion emotionally and/or physically. So rather than accomplishing our goal of a solution and a better relationship, we get damage, frustration, and misery.
Rather than heatedly saying to our partners, “I am so tired of your laziness and not getting any help from you!” we might say, “Honey, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed right now. Could you give me a hand with a few chores?” You will likely find some immediate help as well as a safe way to discuss longer term solutions.
You don’t need to hide your needs or play the silent martyr when things aren’t working in your relationship. Just remember that your partner has their own perspective and will be more open to yours when they feel invited to seek solutions rather than forced to defend themselves.