Relationship Minute: Feelings vs judgments

Contempt is a tricky thing. It’s destructive to the love in a relationship, and yet it can be insidious.

Often, subtle forms of contempt feel perfectly justified—”I’m standing up for myself,” or “I’m just telling it like it is.” But what you may not realize is that you’re standing up for yourself against your partner, putting yourselves in opposition to each other.

So while contempt may seem like the expression of genuine feeling, it’s actually an expression of negative judgment.

Try to practice expressing yourself with feelings and longings that can unite you and your partner, rather than judgments that can divide.

For example:
“It scares me when you drive fast!”
vs
“Why can’t you drive more like I do?”

“I felt embarrassed at the party when you left to chat with your friends and I didn’t have anyone to talk to.”
vs
“I would never abandon you like that!”

“The way you’re reacting is really unexpected for me. Can you tell me more about what’s going on?”
vs
“You need help.”

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: Feelings and facts

Feelings aren’t facts, but they do matter.

Let’s say it’s 68°F (20°C) outside. To some, that temperature may feel cold. To others, this is warm. And for some maybe this is the perfect temperature and they’re comfortable.

No one is wrong. How they experience that fact (the temperature) is likely informed by numerous factors (resting body temperature, what they’re already wearing, where they’re from, and what type of climate they’ve acclimated to, for example).

Similarly, an individual’s feelings about the facts of a situation are subjective.

Try to note the difference between facts and feelings and acknowledge that your partner has a right to feel however they do, even if it’s different from how you feel. This is also a good opportunity to acknowledge your own feelings.

Let’s look at this example. Fact: the door made a sound when your partner closed it. To you, that sound was loud and unexpected. Which of these responses owns your feelings as yours? Which is more likely to make your partner defensive?

“You scared me when you slammed the door!”
Or
“I felt scared when the door slammed.”

Locating your own feelings, and acknowledging that they’re subjective in doing so, gives your partner the opportunity to address that feeling, rather than get into litigating the perceived facts (“I didn’t slam the door.”) How can you separate facts from feelings?

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning.