Walking in Your Partner's Shoes
Disclose Crucial Background Information
Arguments can become so habitual and reactions so immediate that partners play their parts with little knowledge of what set them off. They may not even notice important conditions that set off a particular discussion and make it different from previous ones.
For example, Sylvia is concerned about some lumps she feels in her breast. She tried to get Gerard to feel them, but he made only a half-hearted attempt saying, "I'm no doctor." He told her to see her doctor. The morning of her appointment, Sylvia awakes worried. She goes into the kitchen and finds Gerard with his head in the newspaper, eating his breakfast. He barely acknowledges her. Her fear over her appointment turns to anger at Gerard. She sarcastically says: "That must be a fascinating article in the paper."
Gerard assumes that this is the same old conflict: "Come off it, Sylvia. Can't a guy read the paper in peace?" Sylvia has an urge to blurt out something about her appointment but doesn't, for fear he will dismiss her concerns. Then if her "lumps" prove to be not significant, he would gloat about being right and lecture her again.
The crucial piece of information that would have made the morning understandable -- Sylvia's worry about her doctor's visit -- was never a point of discussion. Although there is no guarantee that Gerard would have responded the way she hoped, if Sylvia had mentioned the appointment and her feelings about it, it might have refocused their discussion and led to some genuine support from Gerard. Not mentioning it robbed them of that opportunity.