We all have our little habits and when you live with someone these habits are likely to come under scrutiny. In relationships, we can sometimes get caught up in a battleground of little arguments over the toilet seat left up, clothes stored in the “floor- drobe”, or forgetting to take out the garbage. The things that you easily overlooked in the early days of your relationship, can really become the things that infuriate and obsess you just a few years later. I notice that for some of the couples I work with in counselling, they can’t see beyond these annoying behaviours and this negative pre-occupation can start to erode the goodwill in the relationship.
When you are feeling stressed, tired and especially if you are the parent at home with the baby, you can easily slip into focussing mainly on your partner’s negative habits rather than their positive ones. Your world may have become a lot smaller and the home itself has become a bigger part of your daily life. Feeling a sense of mastery and control can be important when you become a parent, as there is so much that you realise is out of your control! Not knowing when your baby will sleep or feed, the kaleidoscope of your own emotions and your changing sense of self may leave you feeling insecure and unsettled.
For many new parents, this may lead you to try and control your external world, like the state of your home or your partner’s behaviour, as a way to feel more secure. Perhaps you have needs that are going unnoticed, un-expressed, and unmet and these may be surfacing as resentment and criticism in your relationship. Unfortunately for your partner, it can make them feel criticised and unappreciated, which can create a chasm in your relationship. It’s important to realise that you are both on the same side, and nitpicking will not create a positive future for either you, your relationship, or your baby.
If you notice yourself wanting to criticise or nag your partner, than consider the following steps as a guide for action.
1. What really bothers me about this behaviour?
Sometimes we can be making a judgement about our partner’s character as a result of the behaviour, ie, that they are selfish, that they don’t care about you. How realistic are these beliefs?
2. What am I feeling and what do I need?
Your feelings are an indicator of how you are relating to this situation and can guide you to the unmet need underneath. If you can identify what you are feeling and what you really need, it makes it possible to get your needs met.
3. Ask for what you need.
Your partner cannot meet your needs until you express them. Keeping the house tidy may be one of your surface needs, but is likely there is something deeper going on that needs to expressed and acknowledged.
If you are finding yourself stuck in criticism and picking on your partner, then it’s a good time to seek support. Sometimes you can know you need to change your behaviour but you have no idea how to begin. I work with couples everyday and support them to communicate effectively about all the little things, as well as the big things in their relationship. Let’s talk before it breaks, contact me now to book a session.