What If My Partner Talked To Me That Way?

emotional intelligence 

By Ashley Patek

What If My Partner Talked To Me That Way?

The other weekend, I did a rare thing. 

A mom playdate. 

I know, it sounds very unicorn but we gal pals were able to coordinate our schedules and actually eat. An entire meal. Away from our kids. Uninterrupted. 

But here’s the funny thing about taking a break from your children. You’re barely out the door before you miss them, and once you are out, it doesn’t take long before the conversation circles back to them. 

That is exactly what happened. We began dishing on what was going well in our homes, and mostly, what wasn’t, before the appetizers were even tableside. 

Power struggles. Not listening. Sibling arguments. Us losing our -ish.

And this is when my friend posed a profound question. 

“How would we feel if our partners talked to us in the same way that we sometimes talk to our children?”

Initially we all sort of giggled an uncomfortable giggle, but then we got quiet as if to really hold the weight of that thought. “How would we feel?”

Our pod strives to be intentional parents. But just because ya know the things don't mean it is easy to apply in the moment of reactivity, and it certainly doesn’t mean we don’t lose our cool. We do, all in our own ways. 

My friend’s words stayed with me through dinner. On the ride home. And long after I put my children to bed. 

“How would we feel if our partners talked to us in the same way that we sometimes talk to our children?”

I closed my eyes to imagine. 

If my husband were to yell at me, raising his tone, I would almost immediately cry. If he told me to stop crying, I would cry harder. Eventually, I assume, I’d learn to choke down the tears and hold back my feelings in an attempt to avoid being yelled at. 

If my husband was constantly on his phone or distracted during my bids to connect with him, I would feel bothersome and like I wasn’t important. I may even feel resentful in time because all that I want is for him to acknowledge me. 

If my husband talked to me condescendingly, I would feel that my wants and needs didn’t matter. Like somehow I was less than. 

If my husband threatened me or gave warnings or forced me to my room when he didn’t like my behavior, I would feel unsafe. My trust would surely diminish. I may even fear him. 

A Paradigm Shift

Sometimes the way we talk to our partner is different from how we speak to our children. But does it need to be? When it comes to respect, I would say the answer is no. 

We parents have about a zillion things on our list, and it feels like we can rarely keep up. So parenting becomes about logistics. Keep them fed, get them bathed, take them here and take them there, keep them alive. 

We become focused on fixing behaviors, getting them to listen and surrendering their agenda for ours. 

Some days it is all I can do to keep my sanity. But it isn’t their fault. They are allowed to exist in all of their vibrancy and be treated like a human. 

What if … 

  • Instead of yelling, we learn to understand where that urge comes from within us and channel it to model emotional regulation? 
  • We become a home that embraces mistakes and feelings?
  • We get on their level and make eye contact when they are sharing their world with us? 
  • We set empathetic boundaries, because boundaries are a form of love?
  • We model respect instead of demand it?

Because during power struggles, when I win, they lose. And I never want to be the cause of my child losing parts of himself. 

With my husband, I collaborate. I communicate instead of dictating. I don’t attempt to train him but to understand him. Don’t our children deserve the same? 

We Define Love 

Right now, my husband and I are the definitions of love for our children. Our behavior and words outline what is acceptable and what isn’t. Our response to them informs them of how to treat others and sets the pace for their own self-worth.

I won’t be a perfect parent. None of us will. That isn’t the goal anyway. 

But I can strive to be a mindful one. This simple question has helped me achieve that. 

When I feel myself getting short and salty, I reflect back. How would I feel if I were talked to and treated in this way? Sometimes it is enough to stop me in my tracks.

I am going to pass the baton on to you, my fellow parent. Pause and ask yourself, How would you feel? Come up with your own answers and write them down. Use this time to reflect. 

To raise kind, empathetic and respectful humans, we must be them first.

•  •  •

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