What lesbian couples are fighting about and how they can stop

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What Dr. Whitton is hoping to help clinicians and graduate students learn is how to effectively work with same-sex couples on these unique circumstances by utilizing not so dissimilar methods from regular relationship training, but with the tools that speak to them. A few tips that could help any relationship:

Slow down.

“To be able to talk to each other about [an issue] and communicate about it can be something so simple,” Dr. Whitton said. “If one person is saying, ‘You don’t love me. You don’t love me because you’re not telling people about our relationship,” and the other person is like “Don’t say that about me. I do love you,’ and they’re not listening to each other very well, they’re not ever getting to the point of it, which is that the first person is feeling rejected and hurt and so there’s a softer emotion behind the anger that typically comes out. So when we teach couples just some of the basic communication skills like, ‘Try to slow down and use the softer emotions that are driving the harder emotions.'”

Don’t be defensive.

Try “hearing what your partner says and then paraphrasing it before you respond with your side,” Dr. Whitton said. “We found a lot of success with that, especially with couples who are misinterpreting why a partner is doing something.”

Use “I” statements.

“’I felt rejected when I learned that you’re not out at work.’ Saying things like that instead of, ‘I can’t believe you didn’t tell people at work about us. Do you not love me?'” Dr. Whitton said. 

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Start with a positive.

“A lot of times conflict is really hard between couples because if you love your partner and then she criticizes you, it makes you go, ‘Does she not really like me? Does she hate our relationship? Is she thinking about breaking up with me?'” Dr. Whitton said. “But if you start with a positive like, ‘I think our relationship is going so well and I’m so happy with us, but there’s one thing that’s been going on that’s really hard for me.’ Put it in a bigger context so your partner doesn’t interpret your gripe as something that is threatening to the commitment.”

Listen to her. Seriously.

“The listening is really just shifting how you have conversations so that your first goal when your partner is letting you know something is not to defend yourself against it or even put your view out there but before you do that, stop and acknowledge what your partner’s side was,” Dr. Whitton said. “So oftentimes that’s paraphrasing it or saying, ‘I really understand this is how you felt.’ And a key thing that we teach the women is that if you do that, it doesn’t mean you’re necessarily agreeing with it or that your partner is right. Because that’s the main reason people don’t stop and paraphrase and let their partner know what they’re hearing. So if I say, ‘Oh, you felt rejected, you felt like I didn’t love you when I’m not out at work,’ you think you’re saying that’s true—but you’re not saying it’s true. You’re letting your partner you know that’s the case, and when your partner’s heard that, she’s in a much better place to listen to what the real problem is.”

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