5 Ways to Solve Any Relationship Problem

Principle #2: The language you use toward your partner is critically important in determining the outcome of any problem.

Even though you may be right, you may not get your way if your method of communicating isn't effective. It will do you no good to put your partner on the defensive right away with accusatory language. When someone's being attacked, it's a natural defense mechanism for them to either fight back or retreat into a shell -- in either case, the problem won't be rationally solved.

Here are a few examples of language choices that will get you nowhere fast:

  • Using the words always and never. Saying something like, "You never help out around here!" will stop any reasonable discussion dead in its tracks. It sounds like you're exaggerating, and your partner will invariably be challenged to fight back in their defense. They'll probably respond with something like, "That's not true! Remember that time two weeks ago that I helped clean up the house and took the kids to school?" It turns into a "he said, she said" debate, and the real issue gets lost in the translation.

    So catch yourself when you use words that imply absolutes. Using the above examples, it would be better to start off by saying, "I'd like to talk to you about your share of the workload," and "I'd really like it if you put me first -- sometimes I feel second to your friends, relatives and co-workers."

  • Insults and name-calling. Some of us grew up believing that the more belligerent and loud we were, the more we'd command attention. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, this technique may intimidate and belittle your partner into compliance, but you'll also make them angry and resentful of your ways. They might not have the guts to tell you to your face, but they'll secretly feel that you're a jerk.
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