Relationship Advice Tips from Dr. Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D

psychotherapy for problems feeling supported by your partner west los angeles

photograph copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

Do you feel irritated and unsatisfied when your loved one tries to solve your problems instead of understanding how bad you feel?

Are there other times when you want to deal with your issues but your loved one just placates you and tells you not to get worked up?

Or perhaps you just get mad when your loved one says “that happened to me too!” and proceeds to take the floor leaving you high and dry.

You can avoid the frustration and anger that comes when you don’t get attended to in the way that you want by following Dawn’s example for getting more bang for your buck when you are really upset and need to vent.

psychotherapy for couples not in tune with each other west los angeles

photograph copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

Dawn wanted comfort but got a lecture instead!

Dawn’s new job was stressful and she brought it home with her. She vented to Rick as soon as she opened the door. Her voice was full of exasperation and impatience with everything around her. Rick would ask about what happened that day and give her solutions on how to deal with her moody boss or how to troubleshoot the new software glitches on the computer system. He was good at problem solving and believed that if Dawn followed his suggestions all would be well.

But it wasn’t well at all the next day or any other day. What Dawn wanted wasn’t ideas on how to fix things. She wanted understanding and sympathy. She just wanted to feel better. When Rick gave her preventive ideas for the future it didn’t soothe her angst at the moment. In fact, all it did was make her feel more stressed and insecure.

relationship advice dealing with partners venting west los angeles

photograph copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

Dawn wanted someone on her side, not someone telling her she messed up!

So Dawn started going over to her mother’s house before going back to her own place. There she got an understanding ear, some soothing and above all a companion while she vented and relived her awful stressful experiences.  She felt like she had someone on her side. Then when she felt better, she went home and vented to Rick, knowing that she now had the room and curiosity to hear his strategies for preventing the problems from reoccurring.

relationship problems with partners listening to your venting west los angeles

photograph copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

Research indicates that venting has several positive functions depending on how the listener responds.

 In an article published in the European Journal of Social Psychology 2012, changing the way Dawn approached her distress and anger by offering solutions for the future would help her recover her emotional balance faster, but she wouldn’t feel good about it in the moment.

If Rick empathized and comforted her, Dawn would feel better immediately. She would calm down quicker having a sense of togetherness with Rick, while feeling supported. But her overall sense of stress and upset would persist. There would be a longer lag to emotional recovery.

So when Dawn claims that she wants to get over this problem and Rick offers her alternative strategies, why doesn’t it work?

Because what Dawn wants is to have it all but in separate bite size pieces. First she wants to feel better. She wants to know that her partner acknowledges and empathizes with the extent of her distress. She wants to know that he believes her and can relate to her. She wants comfort and soothing before the plan of action.

how to respond when your partner vents at you

photograph copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

How can Dawn get her needs met by Rick when she vents?

1.    Be honest about her need to get Rick on her side instead of pretending that she wants help to get past the stress and anger.

2.    Tell Rick that she needs comfort and empathy before she starts venting.

3.    Tell Rick that when he offers solutions she feels blamed and criticized, not supported.

4.    When she is feeling cared for, believed, less alone and in a shared emotional space, that is the time to be curious about how to avoid these messes in the future.

5.    In her curious moments Dawn can ask Rick to discuss ways in which she can organize and think things through that will make her life at work less stressful.

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photograph copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

How can Rick be more responsive to Dawn’s needs when she vents?

1.     . Appreciate that Dawn’s priority is for empathy, feeling close and being believed.

2.     . Understanding that when Dawn is distressed she can’t think about new ways of acting or problem solving.

3.     . Helping Dawn feel cared for with affection to reduce the distress before trying to solve the problem.

4.      Brain storm with Dawn to come up with new ideas and strategies for the future, making her feel empowered after you have shown her that you are on her side and that you don’t blame her for the mess.

5.       5.That helps her recover emotionally so she can put the ideas into practice since she now has a fresh perspective and a new suit of arms to manage the problems.


Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

You might also like:

Why you don’t feel understood when your loved ones say they ‘understand!’ – part 1

Why you don’t feel understood when people say they ‘understand,’ – part 2

How to get your partner to love you the way you want


Disclaimer: this article is for informational and educative purposes only. Dr. Raymond is not responsible for any reactions you may have when reading the content or using the suggestions therein. Interacting with this material does not constitute a therapeutic relationship with Dr. Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.