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.