POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Feb 23, 2014
In long-term relationships, people can become used to treating each inappropriately. They may use derogatory terms or talk down to one another. Others may not talk much at all because when they do talk it becomes a fight. This happens when the relationship devolves into a power struggle.
If this describes your relationship, both of you may be reacting to unmet needs. When communication becomes hurtful, deeper issues are involved, and you need to be aware of what you are doing. It's important to the foundation and survival of your relationship.
If your partner has spoken harshly to you, you need to let him or her know that your feelings have been hurt. If you are the responsible party, the best response is an immediate apology.
If your other half is being purposely hurtful, you may be too afraid to say anything for fear of escalating his or her anger. Making a few notes and bringing it up in a calmer moment is a good technique. Part of healing your relationship might include communication counseling. If you aren't ready for that step, there are many books on the subject. Read them together.
Loving relationships, no matter how good, have their dark moments. That's normal, and most couples can kiss and make up. But when you start to hold grudges or think of your partner in a negative way, those feelings will pop out in hurtful ways. Avoiding your partner or the problem isn't going to fix it or make your life better. You have to look at the behavior and address it.
One tried-and-true method is to make a point of thinking about what you are going to say before you say it, and imagining how he or she will react to your words. It takes only a few moments and can save hours of grief.
Also, if your partner does something that could be taken as offensive, like ignoring you, say something like, "Honey I know you hear me, and I love you." It can take the fire out of someone's anger when he or she knows that a hurtful behavior has been forgiven without even an apology.
When we are not being the kind of man or woman that we'd like ourselves to be, that damages our self-esteem. If that keeps growing, it will leak into your relationship. Do your best to catch yourself and change this destructive pattern. All you have to do is talk about it.
Barton Goldsmith is a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif. Email him at Barton@BartonGoldsmith.com.