11 Oct What Do Great Relationships and Carrying Heavy Furniture Have In Common?

Imagine you and your partner are helping each other move a heavy piece of furniture from one room to another. Imagine that that it’s really precious, a family heirloom perhaps. Neither of you want to see it bumped, dropped, or damaged.

Each of you take an end and start lifting. You navigate across the room, perhaps down some stairs or around a corner… and as you go, you automatically give each other feedback about what you need from the other in order to do the job well:

“Hang on! Back up a little… I need a bit more space around this corner”

“Slow down! Sorry, I’m loosing my grip. Can we put it down for a second?”

“Yep, that’s great, hold it up higher, like that”

Giving feedback like this makes sense, doesn’t it?

It’s logical that comments like this allow each of you to adjust what you’re doing in order to help the other. 

Without such feedback, it would be so much harder to achieve your shared goal. One partner might be lifting too high, while the other is loosing their grip. Or moving quite fast, while the other is risking tripping over. One’s about to bump into a corner, while the other remains oblivious.

Your relationship is precious, and its something that you and your partner both carry together. So think about it:

Do you and your partner apply this same logic to the way you “carry” your relationship?

I know that for many couples, the answer is “No!”

A failure to provide essential feedback is a really common relationship error, and one I see in clinic every day. 

If this is you, you’re carrying something together that you really don’t want to damage or drop, yet you’re doing it without giving each other any feedback.

Partners who create great relationships are the ones who know how to give each other feedback along the way.

Feedback is crucial. But how this feedback is delivered is really crucial too. I’m not talking about “aggressive” feedback, which is critical, patronising, whinging, abusive, or disrespectful. Nor am I talking about “passive” feedback, which is so polite it really doesn’t say anything at all.

I’m talking about healthy, assertive feedback.

The whole point of healthy feedback is that it provides information to your partner that will, in turn, enable your partner to help you. And visa versa.

“We both want to talk this through, but it’s hard for me to keep up when you talk this fast. Can we take this a little slower?”

“When you speak this loudly, for me it feels like I’m being attacked. I do want to keep talking about this. Can you please soften your voice a little before we go any further?”

“I know you want me to tell you more about what I’m feeling. In turn though, I’m going to need you to listen without jumping in and getting angry or trying to fix things for me before I’m ready”

“I want to stay more positive when we talk about our finances, because I know you really hate it when I get all negative and hopeless. But in turn what I need from you is to only tell me the absolute facts, and avoid scaring me with doomsday predictions that will never actually come true”

Next time you are wanting to resolve an issue with your partner, let him or her know what helps and what doesn’t help you to do your bit towards achieving your shared goal better. And, listen for feedback about what you could be doing or not doing, that in turn, would be helping your partner.

It takes skill to do this well, especially when the feedback you need your partner to hear is potentially uncomfortable or confronting in some way.

Regardless of how tricky things may be, it’s the best way to optimise the chances that together, you’ll achieve your shared goals. And to feel less frustrated with each other along the way.

Pamela Pannifex is a psychotherapist, marriage therapist, naturopath and founder of Sunshine Holistic Counselling on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Pamela has been helping people create personal wellbeing and relationships that thrive for over 25 years. Contact Pamela here.