THEORYExpressing Feelings - A Summary from Couple Skills (self.RedPillWomen)

submitted by Pixie03103 Stars

I've recently started reading the book Couple Skills: Making Your Relationship Work. No final verdict yet, but I'm on the chapter about Expressing Feelings - and I felt like their formula for sharing what you are feeling could be really useful here!

I am definitely not great at sharing what I'm feeling. I struggle to decide if a feeling is valid enough or meaningful enough that it even needs sharing. Once I decide I will bring it up, I mentally prepare myself (re-reading the post on bringing him my problem, not my solution), go in saying a few good sentences... and then blurt out a lot of nonsense that tends to backfire on me. (Blaming, exaggerating, accusing...)

This books lays out a format so that you can say what you need to say - nothing more, nothing less. It seems like a good communication skill in general. I'll summarise it here.

Expressing Feelings

1. First, identify and define your feeling. Give it a primary name. If it is difficult for you in general to identify your feelings exactly, try using a list like this: https://www.therapistaid.com/images/content/worksheet/list-of-emotions/preview.png Or really any list you find. Pick the primary thing you are feeling, and notice if any other words resonate.

Use those other words to expand on your primary emotion.

Pick synonyms that will make your meaning clear: “I’m annoyed… irritated and stressed out.” “I feel depressed… sad and lonely and not interested in anything.” “I’m worried about my job… concerned that the company isn’t doing well, afraid I’ll get laid off.

Basically, you are further defining your primary feeling, because "upset" means different things to different people.

2. Then, decide how intense your feeling is. Are you only a little upset? Are you annoyed, or furious? Is the feeling crippling, or only slightly irksome? (If it is on the minor end, it might not be something you have to discuss unless it comes up directly. It might be something you can figure out / handle alone.)

3. How long have you felt like this? Be honest. This gives context - and it indicates how new you are to coping with this emotion.

4. Why do you feel like this? Be careful here. This may be the most important part. Do not blame your partner for your feelings, even if your feelings are directly related to them. (I can mess up the most here.) Also be very wary of accusations cloaked as "I feel" statements. Many of us are familiar with framing our emotions by saying "I feel..." first, instead of "You always..." or "You shouldn't have..." But if our "I feel" statement incorporates blame, it's not a true "I feel" statement.

"I feel like you are wrong for going out" is not an "I feel" statement.

"I felt hurt the other night after you went out" avoids blame-placing or judgement words, and makes him less likely to react with defensiveness.

This doesn't directly blame or condemn him, but he is able to see the context of the feeling.

5. Compare this feeling to a previous experience. Can you think of another time in your life you felt like this? As a child, teenager? Because of a friend, or a teacher? This provides further definition and clarification, and helps him empathise.

Those are your steps. Put them all together, and you have a great way of expressing what you are feeling (when it needs to be expressed).

I literally practised this skill this morning, when he asked me how being excluded from a recent family event by my brother made me feel. I replied with:

"I feel a little disappointed that I'm not involved in the visit, and uncertain how he really feels or how he will act in the future. I've felt like this toward him since I moved. It feels like when I've had friends in the past who were very ambivalent and I didn't know where I stood with them. By his not telling me they were coming, it cemented how much he seems to be choosing distance from me, so that stings."

We had a great conversation afterwards, very intimate and reassuring - with him even comforting me and reminding me how things will get easier once we start our family. There was no over-dramatising (which I can be guilty of), no confusion or miscommunication.

I hope to implement this strategy in the future when I am expressing my feelings, until it becomes second-nature. I think it will be really helpful for me, and hoping it helps you too! (I'm also working on active listening - so far, we've had much more open and interesting conversations... I know I am not far into the book but I do think it might be a good one to read!)

[–]Ariel125 2 points3 points  (1 child)

Wow, thank you for sharing! This would also be a good journaling/writing exercise. Maybe even a regular daily writing task.

[–]Pixie03103 Stars[S] 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Yes! The book actually suggested you start by keeping a brief journal whenever you feel something - whether positive or negative - identifying the feelings and what happened to trigger them. Just as a way of learning to really identify your emotions.

From there, it's a short step to formatting how you want to communicate them.

[–]Ok_Philosopher 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I think one of the most important thing for people to learn is to take ownership/responsibility for their feelings. I see far too many unhappy people expecting their SO to fix their malaise and it never works. The upset spouse then has the tendency to try to drag their SO down, perhaps out of guilt that they feel upset but the other doesn't. Misery loves company and all that.

I generally don't lead conversations with "I feel." In fact, I keep my emotions out of talks. I generally just cut to the issue about what can be done to ensure both of our happiness, and thus keep things more solutions-oriented. If I know I can't be pleasant because of circumstances he can't change (like being incredibly busy with work), I let him know and stay out of the way so as not to bring him into my stress. When he does something that really upsets me (rarely), I wait until my emotions have passed so we can discuss things without it clouding my judgment about how to move forward. I use emotions as a compass to a destination. To me, emotions are a tool but not something unto itself.

So I dunno. I'm glad the book's advice works for you, but I personally take a different approach. I'm not sure if I believe in expressing feelings, as weird as that may sound. Issues, circumstances, events, yes... but not the emotions surrounding those things.

[–]loneliness-incEndorsed Contributor -2 points-1 points  (0 children)

Interesting and valid points. I'll add my 2c.

Reward and punishment are very important in all of this.

When he listens without judgment, are you happy that he did? If so, how will you reward it? How will you not punish it?

Same goes for anything you'd like to see more of or less of. A therapist once told me that it's best to reward the behaviors we like and ignore the ones we don't like.

Rewarding and punishing can be done through a look of annoyance or a look of contentment. A word of criticism or a word of praise. Turning away or turning towards. Being distant or being close. Staying away from sex or being extra passionate with sex.

There are many ways, big and small that we reward and punish our partners with all the time. We aren't always conscious of it, but we all do it. Our rewards and punishments are what will really determine how we will be treated because they're the messages our partner is truly receiving from us.