In your romantic relationship, have you ever noticed these two things happen?
(1) You have lots of opinions about what each other says or does.
(2) You are able see things about one another that you aren’t able to see in yourselves.
This can lead to:
- Feeling controlled or criticized because of your partner’s opinions about who you are and what you do
- Thinking it is your “duty” or “right” to tell your beloved your opinions and perspective, even when they haven’t asked
- Blaming your partner and their actions for your emotional state
- Getting defensive when they give you feedback, especially about things you aren’t yet willing or able to see
In most romantic relationships, we are constantly giving and receiving feedback with one another. Without the right tools, this can create resentment and disconnect.
However, when feedback is offered and received with love, intention, and grace, it can be one of the most valuable aspects of partnership.
In this month’s blog, we go over the key tips for delivering feedback in a way your beloved will actually hear and receiving feedback in a way that allows you to deepen and grow.
Let’s start with giving feedback.
How do you know if it’s something to share with your beloved or just to keep to yourself?
Here are some general guidelines:
- We want to always aim for that magical ratio of 20:1 positive to negative things we say to our beloved, a ratio backed by the wonderful research of Dr. John Gottman. One way to know if you should share it or not is to check in with yourself and assess if you’ve done a great job pointing out all of the good things first. This would include appreciating them, acknowledging all they are doing well (inside and outside the relationship), seeing their strengths, or saying anything kind.
If you don’t have a good ratio, chances are, your beloved is going to feel exhausted by your constant feedback. However, if most of your feedback to them is positive, loving, and complimentary, they will be able to receive your constructive feedback much more readily.
- Ask yourself if the feedback would actually help. Are you sharing it with them just to complain or punish them, or are you in a space where you can deliver the feedback in a helpful, healthy way?
Have you already tried delivering your feedback to them, and they didn’t receive it? If so, try a different delivery method — share your feedback at a different time of day, during a different kind of activity (ex: offer it when cuddling on the couch, rather than when rushing out the door in the morning), with a different tone, using a different communication method (ex: write them a heartfelt letter instead). Hold off on saying the feedback yet again until you can be strategic about using a different method and style of delivery.
Have you first checked in with yourself to see how you are negatively contributing to whatever it is? Ask yourself: “how am I playing a role in creating this?” Nearly every single challenge in relationships is co-created, and most people completely overlook their own role in it. We aren’t asking you to take 150% responsibility. However, you do want to take 100% responsibility (and nothing less) for any way you have played a role.
- Remember to differentiate. It’s okay if your beloved wants to do something differently from what you think is best. Do not constantly share your unsolicited feedback with them. In many cases, if your beloved wants to do it their way, even if it’s less efficient or effective, let them do it their way. Choose your battles. Let them be different. Be more committed to being happy and close than being right.
When it’s time to deliver the feedback, here are a few quick tips.
Keep your own humanness in mind, and share it with them.
When giving feedback, it’s important that you don’t put yourself in a position where you are the one who has everything figured out, and they are the one with all the issues. That comes across as egotistical and condescending and is not helpful.
Share with them a mistake you’ve made too or things you personally are working on. This will help them feel less alone and more connected to you as their best friend and teammate. This tip is not always essential to explicitly do (i.e. you don’t always have to list off your mistakes or personal learning curve), but it is always important to come from this spirit of remembering you too are human and are always learning and growing as well.
Ask permission before giving them feedback.
This communicates that you respect them, it will allow them to get into a more receptive space before you deliver the feedback, and it will prevent them from feeling attacked.
Take yourself down from the authority pedestal.
Don’t treat your feedback as the ultimate truth. Offer your ideas and perspective as possibilities, invitations, and loving suggestions, and let your beloved be the ultimate authority of their health and happiness.
If they sense you are forcing your opinions, they will hold onto their way of doing things even more, just to prevent losing their individuality. Let your sweetheart be different. Honor their inner wisdom, and help them tap into it, rather than dominating their inner voice with your own.
Focus on the future, not the past.
Although there are some moments when focusing on the past is important, nobody wants to listen to a laundry list of the mistakes they’ve made or things they could have done better. If you ever go into the past, name these things with compassion and grace. However, we encourage you to primarily focus on what you’d love to be different in the future.
In fact, in many conversations, we recommend only focusing on the future, rather than on what has already happened. Use the prompt: “What I dream of is…” Use positive language to paint a picture of how you’d love things to be different next time.
When you focus on the unwanted behavior that already happened, you can easily (and unintentionally) reinforce it. However, if you focus on the behavior you would like to see more of (and say it in a warm and inviting way), you are giving your beloved an opportunity to succeed and are increasing the chances of things improving.
Give one piece of feedback at a time.
If you bring up all the ways you wish your beloved would improve, they are going to be flooded and overwhelmed. When you pick just one thing (and focus on the behavior, not the personality trait!), the chances of them receiving and implementing your feedback increase. Less is more.
Now, let’s share a few quick tips for how to best receive feedback.
Find the gem of wisdom in it.
We are passionate about having a learning-orientation to life. See how every experience, positive or challenging, holds opportunities for your learning and growth. Although your partner’s feedback will likely be colored by their own emotions, projections, judgments, personal needs, etc., chances are, there is a gem of wisdom inside of it for you to benefit from receiving.
Rather than rejecting your beloved’s feedback, graciously hear them, see the validity in what they are trying to convey, and get curious about what you can learn from it.
Even if you don’t see the golden nugget of truth right away, stick with it and keep reflecting. The more open you are to feedback, the more you will get to grow and improve in life.
Also, consider that the feedback you resist the most may actually be the feedback you most need to hear. 😉
Don’t take it all personally.
We want to balance out the above feedback by also suggesting you not instantly take all of your beloved’s feedback as the ultimate truth. It is indeed colored by their perspective and judgments (since we’re all human, we can’t ever avoid this completely!). We encourage you to get curious about it and see what truth there is to it. However, balance this out by also listening to your own heart and inner wisdom.
Let it fuel self-love, not your inner critic.
If you already have a harsh inner critic, you could use your beloved’s feedback as further reinforcement of the negative beliefs you have about yourself (ex: that you aren’t enough, that you are a failure, that you will never get it right, that you messed up, etc.). These may not at all be what your beloved is saying or wanting you to think or feel. And it’s definitely not how to receive it.
Instead, take yourself lightly. There are no failures in life — only feedback about what does and doesn’t work. Everything is here for our growth, and nothing is lost if we learn from it. Self-criticism paralyzes us, rather than improves us. Be gentle, compassionate, playful, forgiving, and kind to yourself. Give yourself permission to be human and get messy. It’s only our ego that fears mistakes. Our hearts have the wisdom to embrace our less-than-perfect selves, learn what we can, and move on.
See how your beloved makes sense.
Three of the most magical words in a relationship are “that makes sense.”
There is a reason your beloved brought this up. Rather than resisting, defending, or rejecting simply validate your beloved. It’s way easier and more productive — for both of you.
Look for their unmet needs.
When you just get defensive about what your beloved has shared, you also miss out on hearing the underlying feelings they are trying to communicate. There is a good chance they are sharing feedback with you because their own needs aren’t getting met. Focus on a creative solution for how you can work together to get both of your needs met.
See their good intentions in sharing this feedback with you.
Lastly, your beloved likely shared this feedback with you because they care about you and want the best for your life together. See them for their good intentions, and communicate these to them. As always, when we see the best, we get the best — in others, ourselves, and in life.
We hope there were some useful nuggets here to help you receive the invaluable wisdom within you both and to balance out what you share and what you keep to yourself.
In relationships, it is such a gift that we have an added perspective to learn from in any situation. May you approach each other’s feedback with curious and open hearts, and allow your partnership to catalyze your greatest growth into your very best selves!
As always, if we can support you in any way, we are totally here for you!
If you feel overwhelmed, flooded, and resentful about the amount of feedback your beloved seems to always be giving you, or if you feel frustrated because your beloved isn’t receiving the feedback you are trying to share, in just one session, we’re confident we can help you have a big breakthrough. Learn more about our counseling and coaching (available anywhere in the world), or check out our upcoming Thrive in Love retreats where we dive deep into all of these things and help you connect and communicate in radically new ways that actually work (coming up in Oregon, Chicagoland, and Bloomington, IN).
May your love continue to blossom into the best version of who you can be together!
Sending you all our love and blessings always!
Infinite Love and Joy,
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