Ok first off, if you’ve landed on this page and clicked on this title, then hi friend. You probably are here to learn all the “right tricks” and maybe gain some insight into your partner. You, my dear, control-oriented, friend, are totally my people. And while I’m sure you may be disappointed to read that these tips actually have little to do with your partner and everything to do with controlling the controllables (aka you), I hope you stay with me and hear me out.
I work with clients everyday who are looking to get the people in their life to behave differently. Usually their parents I mean partners (see what I did there?). But here’s the thing. The more you focus on trying to get someone else to behave differently the more you are neglecting the thing that will actually impact the equation. Your own behavior.
Nagging hasn’t worked? Withdrawing and ignoring them hasn’t changed anything? Pointing out how they should be doing things differently only results in arguments and further withdrawal? Then perhaps it’s time for a new approach. Let’s jump in.
3 Tips to Get Your Husband to Listen this Holiday Season:
Prioritize Stress Management and Self-Care:
Ok so right outta the gate we’re starting with the obvious. The holidays are filled with stress, other’s expectations, and changes in our routine. This in and of itself is going to lead to increased difficulty with your communication.
So before you look at your partner with a request, I encourage you to take a second and check in with yourself. Are you regulated? Have you moved your body today and eaten enough?
Because there’s the thing. If you aren’t in the space to be bringing a concern up to your partner, then the chances of the conversation going the way you want it to go is slim to none. You will inherently be bringing that dysregulation into the conversation and you will have a much harder time avoiding regressing. Which in turn ups the chances that your partner is going to regress as well or shut down (depending on their typical communication pattern, they may just as easily explode). So do everyone a favor and be sure that you are prepped and ready for the conversation.
Set Clear Boundaries and Communicate Expectations:
Second tip is related to boundaries (you know your girl loves a good boundary) and involves some prep work. Let’s say that you are trying to ask your husband to help in managing get together’s with your in-laws (aka his parents). I’m a big believer that whoever’s parents they are, they are also their responsibility to manage expectations, conflict, and generally they are team captain of managing that relationship. So maybe you want your husband to tell his parents ahead of time that you have decided to set a few ground rules this holiday season and you won’t be allowing them to make passive aggressive comments directed toward you or your children. (Spicy, right? And yet I hear this one a lot in my office).
So before you sit down for this convo here’s what you wanna have your boundary ready to go. Now “boundary” is a real hot topic issue that everyone loves to say right now. But honestly most people are using it incorrectly. The definition of a boundary is that it is a protective mechanism that distinguishes the difference between you and something else.
So relationally, a boundary allows someone to better understand who you are. Now here’s the key. A boundary must have a consequence attached to it, otherwise it’s just a request. In this example your boundary may sound like “hey babe, this year I am setting the boundary that you will be in charge of communicating our new boundary with your parents that if they make a passive aggressive comment toward me that they will be asked to leave. I am requesting that you set this boundary ahead of time with them so that we are all on the same page. If you do not step in to intervene I will remove myself from the situation.”
Now of course, this can sound a million different ways. This is wordy and you may want to be more concise. But the important thing is that you have made it clear to him what your expectation is and what will happen if he does not honor your boundary. The consequence is also related to the original statement. A consequence is not about punishment, it is about you taking care of yourself. So here, if your in-laws have made a comment that was inappropriate, you removing yourself from the situation makes a lot of sense. (Honestly, addressing the issue between y’all more directly is the healthiest course of action but that’s a blog for another day).
Here’s the important thing to keep in mind. Your consequence needs to be something that you are willing to follow through with. If you don’t, then you aren’t setting a boundary and you are just threatening someone which is unhealthy and will keep you in the same continual pattern of dysfunction. Also keep in mind that once you’ve set the boundary you are releasing control. Your husband get’s to respond however he wants to and it’s then your job to take this information in and make informed decisions moving forward. (Aka if he decides not to honor your boundary then you now have to decide whether this is a marriage where you feel honored and if not, what is your next course of action?)
Understand the Impact of Childhood Trauma on Your Communication Patterns:
Alright, if you’re on my website, you probably expected to see this one. Cliche I know, but understanding how your family history and trauma (because yes you have it to some degree, parenting is hard and rupture is inevitable) is impacting your current communication patterns is the key to behavioral change.
For example, did you have parents who were quiet and tended to push conflict under the rug? If so, you may really struggle and get anxious when conflict shows up in your present relationship. Or perhaps you had a Dad who would get quiet when he was upset and now anytime your husband gets quiet you get anxious and lean in harder.
It doesn’t matter how wonderful our parents were, parenting is hard and mistakes are going to happen. And because you are also human, you are impacted by your childhood wounds. Gaining awareness over these patterns allow you to find your functional adult and gain autonomy in conversations vs feeling out of control of your behavior.
Bringing It All Together
If you take anything away from this blog I hope it’s that if you want to evoke behavioral change from your husband, the best thing you can do is learn how to set healthy boundaries and take accountability of your role in the dynamic. The more we stay in our lane the easier it is to stay in our functional adult and breathe life into our relationship.
The beauty of relationships is that they aren’t all or nothing. They are a cumulation of lots of small interactions. So if you’re working on communicating more effectively you can share this with your partner and let them know that you’re going to be practicing.
If you’re in a season of trying to pull out of codependency and move into healthier relating with your partner I want you to know you aren’t alone and you’re a gift to future generations. We’re raising generations of young people who are grounded in growth and repair and truly what a gift. Regardless of whether or not you have children, you’re impacting those around you and those ripples are strong and beautiful. So I encourage you to take a minute to celebrate your growth and impact.
And as always, if you want more support on your journey, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m passionate about helping you find the right clinician, coach, or resources, even if you aren’t working with me.