March 17, 2021
Remember the last time a conversation reached an impasse in your relationship? Instead of seeing your partner as a teammate, you suddenly saw them as an obstacle to your happiness. It’s an unpleasant but universal occurrence as we grow closer in romantic relationships.
When we first start dating, we are hyper-focused on our partner. This can give the impression of almost having ESP at first. But eventually this fades.
As we grow more comfortable with each other, we actually become more neglectful of each other’s needs — unintentionally, of course. This can lead to feeling frustrated. Because your needs aren’t being met. If you want to change this, you have to learn how to turn frustrations into requests.
How Imago Can Help You Turn Frustrations into Requests
Imago teaches that these frustrations don’t have to become an impasse. Follow the steps below and watch conflict turn into a constructive blueprint for growth.
Reflect on the Problem
Carve out some time and space from your partner to reflect on what’s bothering you.
- Make a list of your frustrations.
- Focus on repeated rather than one-off mistakes. Pick your battles.
- For the first pass, there’s no need to edit your anger for politeness. Start with the phrase “I don’t like it when you…” and go from there.
Perhaps you and your partner will want to do this at the same time.
Get to the Root
Behind every wall of frustration, an inner child (or adolescent) waits for a need that wasn’t met when growing up. They might wait in tears, sulking, angry, or even in pained silence.
Accept the emotions that arise, and look for that young person’s desire underneath the emotion.
- Ask yourself: “What do I actually want from my partner when I feel frustrated with them?”
- Fill out the answer in the format “I would like to…” or “I want…” Think about what you want them to do in an active way. This is the beginning of turning your frustrations into requests.
Find Paths to Solutions
Next, you’ll want to list concrete actions that could help you to meet your needs. After all, we want to help our partner with clear instructions! None of us can read minds. This is the request part.
- Focus on actions. Make sure you stick to actions rather than suggesting how your partner “should” think or feel. They can control behavior far easier than they can change their thoughts or emotions.
- Get creative! Problems suddenly look much smaller when we approach them with an open mind for solutions.
- Be specific. You likely have your own definition of certain words or phrases. For instance, what does “a little time” mean to you? Fifteen minutes? Two days? A week? If you ask your partner to give you “a little time” to think over important decisions, defining that phrase makes a big difference in the amount of space they give you.
When You Turn Frustrations into Requests, There’s Hope
You can use this process any time you find yourself crashing against frustration bricks in your relationship. Determine what you’re really frustrated about. Figure out steps your partner can take to alleviate those feelings. Then turn frustrations into requests that you share with your partner.
You can take turns sharing and listening to your lists afterwards, an act that’s bonding in its own right.
With the right tools, you can turn that wall into a tunnel with a light at the end. Hopefully reading this today feels more empowering already.
Want to fill the Imago toolbox in your relationship? Reach out to a counselor who’s trained in the tools.