Of all the people in the world, your partner probably has your best interest in mind. I mean think about it: this person is sharing their life with you. They chose to be with you because they think highly of you, care for you, and want to form a life together. If you are married, this is even more so the case. For better or for worse, you and they are together. This means that your actions (or inaction) has an impact on the relationship and on your partner. This also means this person is most affected by what you do, how you act, and how you handle things. And yes, this goes both ways. So naturally, they want to help you become a better person – this is, after all, one of the important and rewarding aspects of being in a healthy relationship. This also often means providing feedback to you.
For anyone who has been in a romantic relationship, you know that conflict happens. In fact, it is inevitable. It’s not uncommon for couples to give their partner feedback after a disagreement, particularly with regard to how things were handled. You also know that you witness your partner make mistakes, and that you are often the person they come to when they need support or advice. If it is the advice they “want” to hear, they are likely to accept what you have to offer without any rebuttal. However, when it is not the advice they are looking for, or when you provide less than positive feedback, does your partner resist and deflect? When roles are reversed, do you resist and deflect?
The Mystery Behind Negative Feedback
What is it about negative feedback in the context of romantic relationships? Why is it that some people have a difficult time accepting negative feedback from their partner? In reality, this does not make sense at all. Think about this: if your partner has your best interest in mind, why would they want to tell you something for any reason other than to make you a better person? The only real benefit to be had by providing you with negative feedback is to make the relationship better and stronger.
Yet time and again, partners have incredible difficulty receiving negative feedback or constructive criticism from their partner. The immediate reaction is one of rejection and dismissing. Somewhere underneath that reaction lies the belief that the feedback-providing partner is out to be malicious, get a leg up, or make you feel less than. However, logically speaking, this is often not the case. And who better to trust than the person who is with you most of the time and engages with you in some of the most mentally and emotionally difficult areas of your life? They know you best and want the best for you.
Just Listen. And Reflect.
The more willing you are to hear what your partner has to say, and actually reflect on their feedback, the more likely it is that you probably will make changes in your life that are for the better. Below are some strategies for increasing understanding, listening to what your partner is saying, and reflecting in a healthy and effective.
- Keep in mind that your partner wants the best for you. This is the reason they are giving you feedback, even when it’s feedback after a conflict that took place between you both. If you keep this notion in mind, you are more likely to listen to what they are saying and take it in.
- Hearing is different than listening. Listening means you consciously choose to concentrate on the message being delivered.
- Your partner isn’t always right. This means they will at times provide you with feedback you don’t agree with. However, there is a difference between shutting them out by not taking in any of their feedback versus listening to what they have to say to determine what feedback is relevant to you.
- The best way to ensure understanding is to summarize back to your partner what you are heard them say. Again, this doesn’t mean you agree; it means you listened. But, it can mean you agree.
- Don’t immediately write off what your partner has said. At least make an effort to understand their perspective.
- If you have trouble being objective, imagine if this feedback was being provided to another person in a similar (or exact) situation. Would the feedback make sense and be applicable then?
- Take some time to reflect on the feedback that was provided. Write down your reactions and thoughts, and even emotions, to the feedback you were given. But, do this in a way where you are open to the feedback.