For example, instead of:
"Most husbands would have replaced that by now. You only care about yourself!"
Try speaking directly to your feelings and needs without interpreting the meaning behind your partners behavior. Make what you say be about you and not about the other.
"I know you are busy, but when you didn't replace that I was disapointed. I would really appreciate you following through when you say you are going to do something."
Defensiveness is like a centrifuge in the relationship. It separates and furthers the cascade toward isolation. When your partner makes a complaint, seriously consider what they are saying and accept the responsibility that belongs to you.
A criticism is a character attack. It is taking something that belongs to me and throwing it into your body. A complaint is like shining a spot light on me and only me. It is sharing my preferences and needs. Here is an example of a complaint: "I prefer the dishes being done right after dinner." or "I would love it if you would do your dishes right after eating."
Anger and resentment are often surface emotions that conceal more vulnerable emotions like sadness, fear, insecurity, and disappointment. Although these deeper feelings take more courage to share, your partner might find it easier to respond to the softness of your defenselessness.
Couples often make the mistake of building up a reservoir of complaints and then launching a rapid attack of out-flowing dissatisfaction. Instead, focus on one complaint/topic at a time and stay with it until you have reached as much resolve as possible.
A time out is not a way to stop talking. It is a way to protect against harm to the relationship when conflict escalates. Make sure to return to the conversation after 30 minutes.
When you are not fighting agree on a time out structure. Make sure you both know the rules during the time out. Take a time out for a minimum of 30 minutes. When your breathing is normal and your heart rate has returned to a resting rate, resume the conversation.
When conflict escalates the body becomes physiologically stirred up. The heart rate increases above 100 beats per minute, epinephrine is released into the blood stream and breathing becomes shallow. Our ability to be rational and productive when we are "flooded" is nearly impossible. We become more like lizards and instinctively fight, freeze, or flee and say and do things that are damaging to the relationship.
All couples struggle with two opposing forces, the needs for both autonomy and connection. The goal is to balance these two needs without loosing yourself or your connection to your partner. This is easier to talk about than to do and requires painful growth and maturity.
Your friendship is the relationship's backbone and buffers against negativity. Share your psychological worlds. Spend time updating each other with new information about work, irritations, and excitements. Show affection, admiration, and praise. If your relationship is distressed, spend a whole week only sharing what you appreciate about each other. "One thing I appreciate about you is…………… Another thing I appreciate about you is………….Another thing I appreciate about you is……………………."