Focus on what is working. If you are keen to exit a cycle of negativity, create a list of the lovely things your partner does, no matter how small, that you can be thankful for. Rather than focusing on what annoys you, elevate the small details of your partner’s thoughtfulness. Better still, make a big deal out of it when your partner does something positive. It will motivate them towards acts of kindness.
Be vulnerable. Often a criticism holds a veiled wish. When you say, “You’re always at football with your friends,” what you may mean is, “I wish you were with me.” Try asking for what you want and sitting with the possibility that you won’t get it.
Abolish sweeping accusations. Phrases such as “You never…” and “You always…”, are loaded with negativity. Listen to the difference between “I would love it if you could do the dishes this evening, I’m really tired” and “You never do the dishes!”
Listen carefully. When something is thrown your way, take a pause. When we are in critical mode, we rarely take the time to reflect. Think about the following: why am I feeling angry? What do I want? Take responsibility for what you feel and state it.
Adopt the Avatar approach. In James Cameron’s film Avatar, “I see you” is used as a greeting on Pandora. When you can open up and really “see” your partner, in the spiritual and connected sense of the word, chances are you will be more understanding of the situation at hand.
Think Rumi. The 13th-century Persian poet wrote, “Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.” A relationship cannot blossom when voices are raised. Try whispering your upset.