Recently I heard someone say to their partner…”You know what I want? I want the benefit of the doubt. I want you to trust that when something happens, I don’t have the worst intentions towards you; that I’m not trying to hurt you.”
I LOVE that. Sometimes, when our resources are low or stress is building up or we’re tired, hungry, hormonal…whatever…we are easily triggered by small things. When what I call “basket one items” happen and we react, instead of letting it go, that’s OUR OWN STUFF. Is it possible that when your partner left crumbs on the counter or forgot to pick up milk, that it wasn’t on purpose to piss you off? Yes. S/he deserves that benefit of the doubt. What I’m talking about is compassion.
It’s one of the Four Agreements; two actually, because it’s both about “Not Making Assumptions” and “Not Taking Things Personally”. If you have a reaction to a small thing, it’s probably about you and your sensitivities.
You may be thinking right now “but wait…my partner DOES say or do little things to try to upset me/hurt me”! If this is the case, and you are sure, please see a therapist because you may need to talk to someone about this relationship. If you aren’t sure… then I invite you to do the following experiment that is about a step in communication that we often leave out.
If your partner does or says something small that you are feeling hurt by, check it out. Examples:
1. Sally asked Herb a question and he didn’t answer. She feels slighted. She could try “Did you hear my question, or am I being ignored?” instead of assuming he was ignoring her.
2. Terry says something that Robin feels insulted by. Robin could ask “That came across as judgement. Is that what you meant?”
The point is, that when we feel hurt, there is usually a conclusion we are leaping to…we feel unloved, or controlled, or unimportant. We forget that the feeling we have is just a feeling and not a reality…we can remind ourselves of the evidence to the contrary. Give your partner the benefit of the doubt (with small things), that their intention is not to hurt you. Their actions are more about their fatigue, stress, their own needs, their own habits, etc.
Try it and see if it makes a difference. It’s a small part of not sweating the small stuff.