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

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Do you know what messages your body language gives your partner?

Do you know how to read the signals of defense rather than togetherness?

When you are fighting for your point of you, to be made right, and win the battle, then your relationship is in jeopardy.

So alert yourself to the behaviors that emphasize the “I” part of you, where you demote the couple part of you

Then tune into the behaviors that stress the “we” part of the couple so your relationship can survive and thrive.

There are eleven ways you show your partner that you are angry, upset and defensive against what might feel like an undeserved attack.

couple in conflict(2)


1. Avoiding facing your partner who is on the attack –

The message here is that your words can’t touch me, you are meaningless to me, and I’m not going to give them any weight – while the one on the attack is demanding “Look at me!”

2. Averting your gaze –

Avoiding eye contact is probably the most powerful way of saying that you don’t want to be connected, and more specifically that you don’t want your partner to see what you are feeling. It’s like a protection of the soul so you don’t feel weak and vulnerable. But it has the effect of blocking the intended thrust of the one talking.

continuing the fight via cell phone(2)

3. Fiddling with something else, checking phone, adjusting clothing, tidying up, moving away

All these distractions create barriers to understanding, empathy and connection. So when one partner focuses on other things while the other is pouring out the vitriol, distress or condemnation, the message is – “I am not going to soothe you or try to see your perspective – it’s wrong and you are just selfish – so I’m just going to let you rant and not feel responsible for your feelings.”


4..Folding hands across chest as a means of protection

 Here the communication is about defiance and protest. The one folding their arms is simultaneously conveying that they need protection from the barrage of accusations and blame, while putting on a persona of bravado.

5. Eating /Drinking from water bottle or whatever is near at hand

One of the most demeaning messages partners give each other when arguing is that they can’t satisfy each other, and that other things can! When a spouse eats or drinks while in an argument it is clearly stating that the food or drink is much more nourishing, comforting and ultimately desirable that whatever the spouse may have to offer. I DON’T NEED YOU is the statement, so I don’t have to work with you on this.

6. Huffing, puffing, sighing –

All these noises serve as a way of distracting the partner who is yelling or trying to score a point – they put the partner off his/her game and make them feel that they are not being heard, so they stop and protest – giving the one sighing a breather from the attack.

Office flitation

7. Raising their necks and torsos and looking down at their spouse –

This one is one of power and domination – usually to hammer home the point that the partner engaging in this behavior feels threatened and is going to stamp out the enemy before he/she is decimated. It puts the partner at a disadvantage because it induces shame and shuts them down (as intended).

screwing up face-unbearable_edited

8. Moving away if a spouse touches their partner or just not responding –

Here the message is two-fold: first, it”s saying “it’s too late now. You had your chance, I don’t want it anymore.” Second it’s saying “I don’t trust you. You are just trying to sidle up to me and I’m not going to forgive you.”

9. Hunching in shoulders and keeping still like a frozen corpse

In order to avoid feeling blamed when one partner is goading you to own your faults and take responsibility for being wrong or bad, the most effective way is to seal yourself in a block of ice – your partner can’t have the pleasure of getting a reaction, and their words and actions just become a lot of empty noise – it’s also a way of being passively aggressive, trying to show you are superior by not arguing back. That really irks the other partner, but it can’t be dealt with, as it is stealthy.

10. Gritting teeth and rolling eyes

These communications are about demeaning the value of the partner’s complaints, accusations or entreaties. It’s saying that your protestations are a game, they have no pertinence, and they aren’t worth taking seriously.

woman turning away from man

11. Turning away from your partner in bed or at any other time during a conflict

This a way of saying I’m shutting you out – you can’t and won’t hurt me – I can’t deal with your feelings – they aren’t justified anyway! Feelings of revenge bubble up to make you feel strong and armored up.


happy cuddling couple(2)

Showing we are more open basically entails a “we” stance rather than an I or You battle position.

  • Face your partner when they are speaking and show that you are listening – conveys that you and your feelings are important to me


  • Maintain eye contact most of the time – says “I am tuned in, and even if it hurts I am going to stay engaged because our attachment is more important than winning or losing a battle.”


  • Show vulnerability and hurt so that it builds empathy and trust – this says “we are both caught up in a negative dynamic, it’s not just you or just me, we are in this together. Let’s stop trading places for “good guy, bad guy.”


  • Keep the upper part of the body unprotected by hands, pillows or other items – this stance says, “I want to experience you and don’t think of you as the enemy. I am going to let you in. I am safe.”


  • Sit close to and allow touch – hand on knee, holding hands when one partner is clearly distressed – this stance says, “I want to be there for you, and feel your pain, even if I can’t take it away. I understand AND I HOPE YOU WILL DO THE SAME FOR ME.”

discussion showing real focus

  • Do not interrupt but nod that you get it, or frown if you don’t – this one says,  “I want to give you space because you are important to me. I want to know how you feel and what impact I have on you so that we can be more intimate without fearing annihilation. I don’t want to wipe you out to save myself, so I want to get information about what you are feeling when we don’t get on.”


  • Repeat back what was said and share the impact on you -when you do this you give the message that,  “we are both hurting and I want to stop feeling so vilified or have to do the same to you. But I don’t want to ignore my hurt and pain so I’m going to tell you when you scare me and when you make me feel insecure.”

 

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AUTHOR OF ‘Now You Want Me, Now You Don’t! Fear of Intimacy: ten ways to recognize it and ten ways to manage it in your relationships.”

Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

 You might also like:

How to get your partner to listen to your side of things without tuning out

How to deal with verbal attacks from loved ones

Develop good communications skills and improve your marriage

Disclaimer: this video 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

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