Through his research, psychologist John Gottman has identified four problematic styles of communication, which he refers to as "The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse." When couples practice one or more of these styles of communication, they are more likely to break-up. Those styles include criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. If your boyfriend has hurt you by practicing one of these styles or something else all together, take a deep breath, clear your head, and try to get to the bottom of why he is not listening to your sensitivities, and hurting you with his words or actions.
If you feel your feelings were hurt due to a miscommunication where your boyfriend was well-intentioned, then acknowledge that at the outset of the conversation. For example, if he invited another couple to join you on a date when you wanted alone time, give your boyfriend the benefit of the doubt that he invited that couple because he thought everyone would have fun on the double date. Acknowledge his effort by saying something such as "I know we have a lot of fun when Dave and Jill are around, and I appreciate that you were including them because you thought I would enjoy their company. However, I mentioned last weekend I was really looking forward to simply spending time with you." By acknowledging his positive efforts and pointing out the miscommunication that hurt you, he'll clearly understand where he went wrong, while also appreciating your acknowledgement of his efforts. This is more effective than saying something such as "I can't believe you invited them! We talked about this last weekend!"
As you enter a relationship with someone, you are bringing two different points of views into the relationship. Even if you have a lot in common, your life experiences are at least somewhat different. Dr. Debra Holland, a licensed psychotherapist, states that you should "realize people are themselves and that might not always sit well with you." For example, if you have a family tradition of opening Christmas presents on Christmas Eve and your boyfriend makes plans with his friends without asking you, it is not because he is trying to hurt you, it is because he didn't grow up with the same tradition. Acknowledge to your boyfriend that while he is being himself, you grew up with a different set of values and traditions you would like to share with him in your relationship. This is more effective than saying something along the lines of, "how could you make plans without asking me?"
During the course of a relationship, the behavior of your boyfriend may change. For example, if you used to go on dates a couple of times a week, and now he stays out late with his friends. If this is the case, point out not only the behavior but why it is hurting your feelings. Using this example, you may feel disconnected and lonely by him seeing his friends on a more frequent basis at the expense of your relationship. Marriage and family therapist Lisa Brookes Gift suggests speaking to your boyfriend using the words "I feel" to state your position in such a case. For example, "I feel that when you stay out late with your friends, we become more disconnected and it makes me feel lonely." It is not overly dramatic, because no matter what the relationship, your feelings are valid.
Sometimes being direct is the best approach. This is especially true for disrespectful behavior. For example, if your boyfriend commented that another woman was attractive, flirted with her or even worse blatantly tried to pick her up in front of you, then point out your disapproval of that behavior in a direct manner. Use direct phrases like, "It hurts me when you disrespect me by commenting on another woman in front of me." If your boyfriend persists, try turning the tables by asking if he would like it if you pointed out every attractive man you pass by. The direct approach minces no words and reinforces your integrity as a person by not allowing him to disrespect you.
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