Communication is hard! It can be really hard to ask for what we want, and it can be even harder to receive feedback about what someone else wants or needs from us. Often a partner’s request can feel like criticism and we don’t even realize that we are feeling defensive until we are yelling. It’s always a challenge to be on the receiving end of someone’s critique, even if it’s constructive. When such feedback is coming from your partner, it can be the most vulnerable.
Being a mirror for your partner (and receiving your partner’s reflection) are some of the greatest gifts of relationship. It is also a longing for us all to be able to give those we care about what they need, we want to be of benefit. Both partners can help the other to see their blind spots, and change habitual ways of relating with the world.
Of course, it’s helpful if both partners know how to give feedback skillfully, without being judgmental or attached to the outcome.
But if you are so triggered and reactive when your partner gives you sincere feedback, that you feel attacked or collapse, you are missing an opportunity for tremendous growth. If you can learn to listen and skillfully hear what your partner is trying to say, you will be able to use your relationship as a vehicle for self-discovery and transformation.
It’s common to hear your own story when your partner speaks, and overlay its meaning onto what you think you heard your partner say as proof of your own “badness”.
For example, if your partner says, I need space you may hear the words, I don’t love you anymore.
If you are able to hear feedback without taking it personally, you will be able to hear the neutrality of the content without having a charged or even visceral reaction that renders you unavailable hurt or shut down. Perhaps the statement was your partners attempt to express his or her own need for self-care so that they can be available to the relationship one they have space to decompress or integrate, etc.
Keep these Points in Mind if Your Partner is Giving You Feedback
- The ability to listen and not react out of fear, hurt, defensiveness is a skill necessary for relationship.
- Just like when you are giving feedback, you need to be in a grounded space in order to hear feedback.
- Remember that no one is obliged to meet your needs. It is your job to advocate for your own needs with regard to pacing and quantity. If you have heard enough and need to take a moment, you need to convey that to your partner.
- Discern for yourself, before you respond, how am I feeling, what is my truth? What did my partner’s request bring up for me? Is the request valid? Can I meet their need? Do I want to fulfill your partner’s request.
- A need to be right, get in the way of our ability to be in partnership.
- Remember that your partner likely feels vulnerable too. When you realize that you are both out of your comfort zones, you will eliminate any pettiness or bickering.
- If something feels unclear, ask for clarification. “Can you say more about that?” goes further than reacting before we fully grasp what our partner is trying to say.
- Don’t equate VULNERABILITY with being bad or wrong. It can feel the same, but if you make a distinction you will not be gripped with unnecessary shame or fear.
Here are 4 more things to keep in mind if your partner has feedback for you:
1. Cultivate an awareness of your projection. Most of us have a few central areas of vulnerability that show up in some way when we’re triggered. Maybe your tendency is to feel more abandoned when your partner expresses a concern with your behavior, or maybe you feel more overwhelmed by being seen. Whatever your sensitivities, the more you can realize what they are and notice when you are viewing your relationship through their lens, the more you will be able to receive compassionate feedback from your partner —and actually grow from it.
2. Realize no one is as critical about you as YOU are! Whatever feedback your partner is giving, when it goes through your own filter, it is magnified about 100 times. We are all our harshest critics. Remember that your partner loves you and is on your side.
3. Remember that no one has enough information about you to make an accurate appraisal of your worth, affect, behavior or circumstances. Only you know the full culmination of your life. If you genuinely feel that your partner doesn’t understand the reasons for any adaptive behaviors you learned in order to survive, take the time to explain it. This will help ease some of the burden of tracking these behaviors, while deepening your relationship.
4. Have compassion and understanding of everything that has brought you to this moment. Your partner is the person closest to you, the one who sees you and knows you more than anyone else. When he or she reflects some aspect of yourself that gives you challenge, it is natural to feel vulnerable and a bit wobbly. Just make sure not to tell yourself stories that sabotage your self-love. There is no need to add a layer of self-attack on to an already sensitive moment.
If you can listen and take in feedback, if you are grounded, you can accurately appraise if you partner is giving feedback in a constructive loving way and if not you can teach them… its all a skill, practice, be open to learning and falling down and getting back up
Lead with LOVE not with FEAR and give yourself and your partner the benefit of the doubt.