• I Can't Talk to My Partner Without Them Getting Angry

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    I Can’t Talk to My Partner Without Them Getting Angry

    Often, couples come to our group practice because they fight too much. This is usually because they can’t talk to each other without getting angry or defensive.

    Most likely, this has gone on for a while. One reason for it is because of a lack of functional boundaries.

    We often associate boundaries with the limits we set on others; for this blog, I’m referring to boundaries as our psychological boundaries.

    Listening Boundary

    We have a listening boundary and a containing boundary.

    Our listening boundary is what we take in, and in a functional (what we want) listening boundary, we only take in what others say if it’s true to us.

    For example, if someone writes in the comments below that this blog is flawed and gives a reason why, I’ll consider it and reflect on it.

    I may also need to remind myself that if the blog is flawed, it doesn’t mean I am flawed.

    If they say it sucks however, with no explanation, I won’t take that in as it’s more about them and less about me.

    That’s a functional listening boundary, only considering what is true to us.

    We often can’t talk to our partners without them getting angry because we don’t have a functional listening boundary.

    We’re entirely reactive to their thoughts and emotions and quickly blame ourselves.

    Now, we don’t want to be a wall and not take in anything they say; if they say something untrue, we become curious about it.

    For example, “I’m curious why you think _____…”

    That is a functional listening boundary.

    Speaking Boundary

    We also need a functional containing or speaking boundary to communicate without getting angry.

    We can’t just say whatever comes to our mind if it’s overly critical or negative.

    We also need to be aware of how we say it.

    For example, if we share our concern with anger, our partner will not respond to our problem but will react to the anger with more anger or defense.

    We also don’t want to be behind a wall and not share anything with our partner as that is also not functional.

    A functional speaking boundary is to speak clearly and from a centered place when giving feedback or sharing a concern. We also release our emotions with moderation.

    This makes our partner less likely to get angry when we talk.

    How We Feel About Ourselves

    This may be the most essential factor in making our boundaries functional.

    If we feel good about ourselves, it’s easier not to react when other’s give us feedback.

    It’s also easier to put what they say in context if it’s not true to us.

    If I’ve been feeling bad about myself, and my wife tells me to put my socks away, I could go to shame inside my head and reinforce how flawed I am.

    Often, if we’re not feeling good about ourselves, feedback can put us into defense and anger.

    For example, the defense and anger look like this:

    • “Will you just give me a break already, so what if the socks are out?”
    • Or “Well, you never put your shoes away!”

    Not feeling good about ourselves also affects how we give feedback or ask or don’t ask for support.

    For example, our style may be to share too much criticism or, on the other side, withdraw and not share at all.

    Conclusion

    When conversations devolve into anger and defensiveness, it’s often a sign that we are not practicing functional boundaries.

    Functional listening and speaking boundaries are essential for talking to each other without getting angry.

    A functional listening boundary allows us to discern what feedback is true to us and what is not.

    This enables us to respond appropriately instead of reacting.

    A functional speaking boundary involves expressing ourselves clearly and calmly without overly critical or negative language that can provoke defensiveness and anger.

    Furthermore, our sense of self-worth significantly affects our willingness to practice functional listening and speaking boundaries.

    If you practice functional boundaries with your partner, you two will be the couple who can truly get through to each other!

    Learn more about our couples therapy practice and how we help couples have functional boundaries!

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