We’ve all been there:
Your partner asks you to do something you don’t want to do, like folding the laundry their way.
It’s late in the evening, you’re tired and really don’t want to do it.
You don’t want to disappoint them or start a fight.
You feel you’re in a lose-lose situation: You can avoid their request, which will result in more nagging and tension. You can attack them for asking and cause a fight. Or you can accommodate them by ignoring your feelings and unenthusiastically do what they asked, which will make you feel, at the very least, more tired and, at the most, resentful, bitter, and negative.
Why do we do this?
Most of us prefer to sugarcoat our communication in order not to rock the boat. We don’t Say the Thing. Many (especially women) were taught that saying No is rude and dangerous(See more about the fear of saying No). Such vagueness has a big price on the relationship. Which is why “ explicitly uncomfortable is better than implicitly vague”.
It is normal that each partner has a different set of priorities, and one partner may care more about specific chores and roles than the other. Some people feel that they should share the same priorities as their partner or expect them to assign the same importance to tasks-which ultimately leads to placating, acting out, or unnecessary pressure.
All these result in a double bind, lose-lose dynamic which ultimately hurts couples.
What’s the solution?
“It’s not that important to me.”
Yes, a simple sentence, delivered playfully, lovingly, and honestly, can soften the dreadful dynamic.
Before You Say the Sentence…
It is crucial to note that the sentence will work only if you consistently move towards your partner’s bids for connection. The research of John Gottman suggests a minimum of five positive interactions to every negative or mismatching comment, such as “it’s not that important to me.” If you don’t have a culture of mutual support in your relationship, then the simple sentence will actually hurt your relationship and be interpreted as selfish, lazy, or cold.
How can this one sentence help?
- Prevents smoke-screening and gaslighting. By owning your shadow, you eliminate misunderstandings and manipulations.
- Releases energy and increases vitality. This phrase liberates your partner from trying to (negatively) mind-read or read between the lines. It channels energy away from misunderstandings, arguments, and vague communication toward collaboration, vulnerability, and truth. It allows you to focus on what’s important, which is the connection between you two.
- Integrity. When you Say the Thing and Own Your Shadow, you gain agency and integrity boldly and clearly in a loving manner.
- It raises differentiation, which is the ability to be clear about my values and to be close to your partner. The expression recognizes that something is important to you and is not for your partner. It holds both subjective truths at the same time. It clarifies your priorities and helps you love yourself and your partner at the same time.
Janice comes out
We’re two months into couple therapy. Janice keeps apologizing to Nate and their children that the house isn’t clean enough. She feels taken advantage of and feels like a martyr surrounded by her ungrateful family. This session I ask her to say the expression in relation to housework.
“Can you say out loud it’s not that important to me?”
She blushes and whispers it.
I ask her to say it louder.
This time she bellows it out. She blushes, Nate erupts in laughter and smiles at her. The room is energized.
It was her truth. Everyone already knew it but Janice didn’t own it.
With her clear statement, they could evolve towards a more accurate role distribution. Janice came out with her truth, only to discover that is deepened the intimacy and partnership with Nate, as he was liberated from being her ‘jailor’ to become her confident and partner.
How to say it loud and proud?
This sentence might be very foreign to you, but with playful practice and goodwill, both you and your partner will delight in this sentence.
- Share this article with your partner. Choose to play with this sentence as part of the legitimate, generative discourse in your bond. Make a joint commitment to say and respect this sentence when spoken.
- Fill your partner’s love tank. Consciously and consistently, go towards your partner’s requests. Create a culture of partnership, trust, and generosity. That will ensure the relationship remains above the five-to-on minimum balance for a solid and loving relationship that will be able to withstand such a bold statement.
- Start small. In front of a mirror, say it again and again, like a mantra. Remember, it’s not that important to me (not to be confused with its not that important at all). Get it in the muscle and get used to saying it comfortably.
- Say it playfully. Play will lubricate the sentence to help it go down easily with your partner. When you deliver the message don’t take yourself too seriously, exaggerate the pronunciation, or change the pitch half way. This will help your partner drop defensiveness or avoid feeling insulted with your remark.
- Prepare for disappointment. As I wrote earlier, there is no need to be afraid of disappointing your partner. It’s normal, unavoidable, even helpful in the long run for your relationship.
- You can then still do it. The fact that it’s not important to you doesn’t mean you’re exempt from doing it. If you don’t mind or want to please your partner, then after saying it, you can still do the deed. By letting them know it’s not your priority but you’re still doing it for them, you’re going toward their emotional bid and depositing in their love tank some good will. These deposits will go a long way to ensure a solid foundation for your relationship.
- As the receiver of this sentence, choose to not get insulted. When your partner says it, breathe through it and Let It Land. Thank your partner for taking a chance and for being clear regarding their boundaries. Thank them for helping you both achieve clarity on where you two stand and both intentions on this matter. Since it is important to you, you can still ask them again, find a compromise or even do it alone.
When you start using this sentence, it might create some initial ruptures and tensions, but over time this sentence will give you a sense of freedom to speak up and remain close to your partner. You will create a relationship in which your limits and shortcomings are welcome.
So is that important for you?
We don’t know, but what we do know is that you should try it out.
This post was previously published on MEDIUM.COM.
From The Good Men Project on Medium
|What Does Being in Love and Loving Someone Really Mean?||My 9-Year-Old Accidentally Explained Why His Mom Divorced Me||The One Thing Men Want More Than Sex||The Internal Struggle Men Battle in Silence|
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