Can you get along with a difficult partner?
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger: For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19-20)
Is your communication style ruining your relationship? How about your partner? Let’s start out with “identifiers” shall we? OK..we need to learn how to not only identify but deal with bad communicators. Let’s ask ourselves some questions..and be honest. No sense in sugar-coating it…that might be the very reason y’all are like two porcupines in a twin bed now!
- Is your boo a bully?
- Is your sweetie a withholder and acts like Mr./Ms. Freeze while doing so?
- Is your partner critical or judgmental?
My pastor talks about this often during his services; it’s easy to get along with lovable easy going people, getting along with unlovable difficult people…well, that’s a task fit for Jesus himself. It’s great when you have a partner that is fair and easy going. Accepting, direct and mature, but what do you do when a partner picks fights on the regular?
Whether your partner has over active control issues, likes to play games, is irrational or just a big baby, there are ways to “bring it down” before an argument escalates and gets out of control and even to mend a sitch that is already falling apart at the seams.
So here is a fun fact. There are 40 common communication styles. Twenty of course are positive and constructive and the other 20 are negative and destructive. Note: you will have to research that on your own kids!
With a reasonable partner you can show by example what you want, ask for what you want or negotiate for what you want. With an unreasonable partner…not so much.
Here’s the first thing you HAVE to do is…face the facts darlin’: You will NEVER have a “great” relationship with a difficult partner. All you can do is damage control and manage it better. Let me tell you why. The fact is difficult partners really don’t want to have a “great” relationship. It’s what you want to achieve. Although you don’t have control over your boo you do have full control over yourself.
So if you, for whatever reason, have decided to stay in a relationship with Captain Difficult, I have a few tips to take the load off of you and redirect right back to the “captain” where it should have never left in the first place!
Acknowledge why you stay in the first place. Is it by choice or obligation? Listen, I am not judging. We as women may not always know what we want but we know what we don’t want. Love is difficult sometimes and we for the cause of it don’t always make the best choices for all parties involved because our better judgment is clouded. Sometimes we feel as if we have no other recourse but to stay. It might feel comfy to us because it’s all we know or how we are raised. Sometimes we don’t even realize it can be different or better. Be clear and most of all honest with yourself about why you’re staying with a partner who treats you badly and it will make it easier for you to cope.
TRAPS! Don’t get sucked in — it’s their prob not yours, don’t let them make it your problem. Remember that the way they behave usually has nothing to do with you. Don’t take it personally and don’t get emotional (I know it’s easier said than done, please trust me on this, baby steps are leaps and bounds in the right direction). Often times it’s a game for them and it’s fun to suck you in. Don’t make it fun for them…at all. A child in the throes of a tantrum can be nerve wrecking, you don’t take it personal, you know that eventually they will stop so you ignore them and don’t feed into negative attention…get it? Here’s a tissue Captain Difficult I have things to do…;-)
They go up, you go down. If your partner is out of control, DO NOT engage. Keep your distance. Be polite and agree with them. Say I’m sorry if you’ve done something wrong and say I’m sorry you feel this way, if you haven’t. Don’t bring up hurt or anger from the past. Don’t walk out of the room; just be calm and quiet. Don’t assign blame, take the blame. Don’t make them wrong, make them right. “He that has knowledge spares his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit. Even a fool, when he holds his peace, is counted wise: and he that shuts his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.” (Proverbs 17:27-28)
Observe your mate. Are they difficult only with you or with everyone? Then observe in what sitches the difficult monster rears its ugly head – during an argument, while making plans, during conversations, when you make requests? You may be able to avoid these specific situations in the future. When you communicate, pay attention to body language, yours and theirs. Pay attention to not only the things you say but how you say them…e.g. sarcasm (my personal fave), insults and hostile tones.
Set a goal; take away your partner’s control. Stay focused. Know what you want the communication outcome to be. One problem at a time. Clearly define your goal, don’t get sidetracked. Stay focused on your goal, not on their behavior.
Understand your partner’s goal. Difficult people are difficult because they have something to gain or benefit or even for kicks from it. Be it control, power, attention or the almighty ego gratified, for starters. If you can figure out what they really want, you may be able to give it to them and avoid their acting out (kind of like a child…see a pattern here?).
Get the 411. Ever heard the saying “…knowing is half the battle”? It sooooo applies here! Knowledge and awareness are so powerful in this type of sitch. Ask questions, i.e. “are you aware that you’re doing this…” “What do you want from me?” “Is there something I can do for you?” Ask for as much information as possible, to find out what they really want. Ask for clarification. Ask questions and try to find out what they’re really saying or trying to say.
Timing is everything. Crazy as it may sound, take a time out if you need it. Make an appointment with your partner or find out when is the best time for them to express whatever it is that needs to be communicated. Remember we are speaking of difficult person and this can be a little tricky, bad moods and what not…make sure it’s a good time for a discussion or to make a request. Note: if they’re acting cuckoo bananas or totally out of control…it may not be the best time so be silent and patient.
Giveth and taketh away. So, our motivations are all different right? Some of us are moved by rewards and some by punishment. It might be a good idea to reward your boo when he/she is being “a person” and not a tornado of bad moods. Put your foot down and be consistent, go on strike do what you must and don’t back down. Let them know that you will no longer tolerate any bad behavior. Stop responding to negative criticism in any way shape or form. Ignore them! People hate to be ignored! Remember, no criticism is constructive.
Overnight success? Think again… We have to ALWAYS be honest with ourselves…can you really change someone? I don’t know to be honest. I know that it can be exhausting trying. The reality is if you decide to stay with a difficult person or engage them, then think of it as your problem not theirs. We when on the receiving end tend to take a certain stance or position. We sometimes can have unrealistic expectations because we kid ourselves into thinking we are right and therefore justify the situation knowing better the whole time. You may be able to alter their behavior with tricks and strike, but they most likely will never change. They will only change if their behavior stops getting them what they want and sometimes not even.
I am by no means an expert on this subject but I have been there and got the T-shirt. I’m hoping to reach out and share what I learned when I dealt with a difficult partner and to help the reader understand and change their own behavior. If you’re able to influence your partner in anyway, consider it a bonus.
Till next time!