Walking the Tightrope: How to Communicate with a Sensitive Partner

Two parrots communicating

Does your partner ever seem a little… sensitive? Can you hear yourself pausing and hesitating before delivering anything that might be construed as criticism? Or do you just keep it to yourself, letting “little things slide” and also some big things? Couples therapists in Highlands Ranch know how much of a toll this can take on both partners. Today, we’ll discuss the best ways to communicate effectively with your sensitive partner.

Step 1: Understand how and why you see them as sensitive.

Unlike clothing at a retail store, people don’t come with labels. Before you try to change your communication, get a better understanding of yourself and your partner—what do you see or experience that makes you categorize your partner as sensitive (or touchy, crabby, high-strung, or whatever other label you choose)? Are they like this with everyone, or just you? Is everyone like this with you, or just your partner? Be willing to recognize your part in the problem—people in relationships tend to fall into cycles, escalating each other’s behaviors. Working with a psychologist in Littleton can help you and your partner understand the reasons behind these behaviors.

Step 2: Focus on your behavior and emotions

You can’t control other people, and you certainly can’t control their emotions. You also don’t have to. There is no need for you to feel responsible for how someone else feels—as long as you are doing what you know is right. If you politely ask your partner “what time is your appointment today?” and they snap at you, that is not your problem. Whatever set them off is not because of you. Instead of getting defensive, think of your behavior—were you asking politely? Using a proper tone? If you are confident that you were behaving appropriately, let your partner have their feelings. At the same time, recognize when your behavior or emotions is triggering the sensitivity—if you ask “what kind of idiot would have done something like this?” you can see why your partner could be upset! Keep your own reactions in check for the best communication, and make sure to avoid passive aggressive comments.

Step 3: End the “Blame Game”

When problems arise in your relationship (and they will!), whose fault is it? Hopefully, if you read the header, you skip assigning blame and move right onto solving the problem. To do this in real life, try to eliminate names and personal pronouns from your communications for a moment. Simply describe the problem, and the solution, if there is one. Instead of “YOU left the laundry in the washer overnight again so it stinks and you need to re-wash it,” try changing your statement to “the laundry was left in the washer overnight and stinks, so it needs to be re-washed.” Your partner knows what they have and haven’t done, so don’t rub it in their face. Likewise, try changing a statement like “between your whining and my yelling, we’re never going to get any of this work done!” to something more neutral, such as “there is a lot of work to do today, we’re going to have to stay very focused.” Remember, it doesn’t matter who caused what, or why the problem happened—what matters is that you, as a couple, must work together to find the solution.

Are you ready to communicate more effectively? These tips are a great place to start, but sometimes, a third-party is the most helpful tool in evaluating your relationship. If you live in Highlands Ranch, couples therapists and skilled psychologists help people strengthen their relationships and see eye to eye every day. Whether you are the “sensitive” one in the relationship, or you want to communicate better with your “sensitive” partner, you can learn valuable tools to improve. Dr. Steve Lazarus and his trusty therapy dog, Zeke, have helped hundreds of couples communicate better and strengthen their marriage!



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