The terrible tantrums and seemingly unannounced multitude of feelings that a child can produce can be seen as outrageously mean. However, as we meet them as adults where they are in their tantrum or feeling of hurt, we can see them as just how they are. We do not think that they are doing this on purpose towards us. Nor do we overreact and blame them in a never ending blame-game. No, we see that we are the adult and that they are the child that we can help and love. We do not take their behavior personally.
On the other hand, when a partner, a grown-up partner, reacts with feeling hurt or having a tantrum we become so enraged with them. Convinced that they do not help with the household chores simply to make us upset. When they didn’t answer the phone earlier on we believe immediately that they no longer want to talk to us. We turn every action from them into a thorn in the side from them towards us. That they maliciously and constantly are doing things to hurt us.
What is happening here?
Well, we are fast to draw up a few Stormy First Drafts and believe them without talking about them. We are also very fast to judge the partner. Without even knowing how they feel or why they have done the thing that upset us. We might even be heading for a new high score in arguments, fighting, ghosting, and other exercises of power that will not help our relationship at the moment.
What could happen instead?
If we could use the perspective that we automatically use when we are the adult around a child, and get to use it more automatically when we are around our partner too, a whole new way of relating might occur.
It doesn’t mean that you are infantilizing them. It would be more accurate to say that you are more generous towards them in the assumptions your brain is making. The Stormy First Drafts are not as frequent, nor do you instantly believe them. Instead you are able to see that your partner is a human just like you. With flaws and errors along the way.
Even when they lash out at you, and yes it most probably will happen. Remember that you only (or mostly) are able to let go fully when you are around people that you love, and that’s why you (probably) only lash out at home – towards your parents, siblings och partner.
So to sum up what you might do instead of your usual reaction towards your partner:
- Make the most generous assumption that you possibly can towards why your partner is doing what it is
- Use the muscle of compassion and give yourself and your partner plenty
- Take turns in being the parent if needed – it is good if both of you can master this skill
Suggestion from us
Find pictures of yourself and your partner from your childhood. Preferably from a young age, perhaps 3 or 4 or 5 years of age. Put them up on the fridge. Keep them as screen savers on the computer or phone. Or somewhere else where you will see the pictures frequently. We believe it is important to see you both. Not just your partner. But also yourself. You need to make generous assumptions towards you and your actions too.