Recognize Your Partner’s Child



Have you ever had the experience that you have a discussion with your partner about something he did that upset you, and he seems to agree and be understand, but then later goes back to justifying his own actions? Feel free to switch the genders, since this is common behavior in men and women. It used to upset me when this happened. I’d think, wait–I thought he understood why it was hurtful when he criticized the way I cleaned the kitchen! Why is he now going back and talking about why he was partly justified in talking to me that way?

These days, it doesn’t get to me as much.

Of course, sometimes, my partner is just returning with additional information now that no one’s triggered. “Just so you know, I’m sorry I said it that way before, but I don’t think you were taking into account how much the butter gets inside the refrigerator door when you don’t wipe the outside of the container.” But if the explanation is coming from a calm and reasonable place, it’s much easier to accept.

The trickier situation is when my partner seems to be going back and explaining why he was right to be mean to me. (For the record, Will doesn’t actually do this much. I’m pretty sure I do it more than he does. But this week, he’s lucky enough to be my example :-).)

And the way I deal with this scenario is by recognizing that, if my partner is being defensive and feeling the need to justify that he’s right, it means that there’s a child inside him who’s feeling hurt, ashamed, and worried that he did something wrong. It’s not about me. There may also be information I need to update on, but the meaner he’s being, the more it means he’s hurting.

When I actually visualize a little boy who’s afraid there’s something wrong with him, it’s a lot easier for me to respond compassionately.


2 responses to “Recognize Your Partner’s Child”

  1. Paul Crowley Avatar
    Paul Crowley

    I sometimes want a way to explain my actions further without seeming like I’m trying to say that what I did was really OK, but to improve our shared understanding of whatever undesirable thing just happened. I’m not sure how to achieve that.

    1. That makes a lot of sense, and seems to be a distinct situation from what I was trying to refer to. If you pick a happy time and aren’t triggered when you bring it up, I’d expect it to go just fine. Does it usually not?

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