Relationship Advice When Things Get Tense…

Relationship Advice When Things Get Tense…

One of the biggest relationship questions is how to feel and express yourself when you get triggered–so that a partner can hear and not shut down to you or get into a big fight.

When you and your partner are feeling resistant and “hard” toward each other, it doesn’t lead to more intimacy and the love you want. It leads to more distance and feelings of aloneness–even when you’re in the same bed.

What you might be saying right now may go something like this…

“Okay, Susie and Otto, that’s all well and good BUT I’m justified to pull away from my partner because of the way he/she acts! There’s no way I’m opening to him/her after the way he’s /she’s been.”

If that’s what you’re thinking, we can certainly sympathize because we’ve felt exactly that way many times before. Your thought might be…

“I know I SHOULD open to my partner but it’s not really in me to do it–and I feel like if I did, I’d be a doormat, caving in and giving ME away.

It really comes down to this question…

“How can I open and soften toward him/her if he’s/she’s just acted like a jerk (in my judgment) without losing my power and giving up me?”

Believe us when we say that we’ve played with this one for quite a few years and here’s what we’ve discovered…

You can do both–you can open and soften so you can listen and talk to your partner and still stay into the truth of who you are.

Here’s what happened the other day to us that illustrates what we’re trying to tell you…

Because Susie broke her foot recently, she hasn’t been able to take her share of the chores around the house and most of them have been falling on Otto. While he’s wonderful about taking them on, it’s not easy for one person to get everything done. So although for the most part we’re very loving with each other, sometimes we’re not.

The other day, Otto made a comment in passing that previously would have triggered an angry response in Susie–and a sarcastic remark–that certainly would have instantly brought up
his defenses and anger. Even though she realized that uncomfortable feelings came up, she didn’t respond immediately.

She just took a breath and sat with those feelings until they had less of a charge to them. Later she asked him this question in a way that invited an answer instead of pushing him away…

“When you said ———————–, I’m wondering what you meant by that.”

(BTW–“I’m wondering” is one of those Magic phrases and you can find more of them by going to )

After Otto explained the meaning behind his words, she was able to understand where he was coming from when he said them and realize that they weren’t disrespectful towards her as she had imagined.

Because she didn’t automatically react to what she thought Otto said, we were able to clear up a misunderstanding very quickly.

Did Susie lose herself by opening to him and asking that question? Of course not.

Did our connection stay close because she chose to be curious and find out more?

Most certainly.

So if you can relate in any way to what we’re saying, we’re inviting you to practice what we’re suggesting and see what happens in your relationship.

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  1. Samantha lorant says

    hi I would like advice on what to do in my current relationship.I experience very strong feelings of jealously but I am unable to control them . My boyfriend is aware that I am very jealous but still insists on telling me the most terrible comments such as I want to sleep with other women butbecause I am with you I won’t also I fancy loads of other women and look at them to see if they are shaggable or not and his last comment was that he thinks he is capable of loving two women at the same time . Even when I am writing this I am anxious and fearful . What do I do I feel so upset to think about it . I can’t start to control myself or feel better .

    • Samantha: Thank you for posting your comment. The first thing we want to do is to help you differentiate between feeling anxious and fearful when the perceived “threat” to your relationship is based on reliable information and when it is not. For some people, jealousy is based on fearful thoughts that have little to do with the present situation and have more to do with the past or with imagined threats.

      In other cases, there are things going on in the relationship that are undermining trust and are possibly signs that relationship agreements are being broken (in other words, flirting, lying, infidelity, etc.)

      From what you write, it sounds like your boyfriend is talking to you about other women in ways that are undermining trust and that also might feel disrespectful and hurtful to you. It is important that as you decide what to do about this (whether it’s talking to him or sorting through this in your mind), you keep your focus on the reliable information. You can hear him talk about what he’d like to do and what he says he would do (be with two women, etc.). If there are signs that he might have acted on his words and cheated, pay attention to that.

      If he hasn’t acted on what he says he’d like to do (be with another woman too), you can talk with him about this. Without accusing him of something that you don’t have proof about, tell him how you feel when he talks like this. Using the phrase “I feel _____ when you say ____” can help you be honest. You might also re-affirm with him your agreements– especially if you have an agreement to be monogamous.

      You can’t force him to stop wanting to be with other women too but you can set some boundaries. You can ask him to stop talking to you like this. You can also honestly ask yourself if it is healthy and in your best interest to stay in this relationship.

      Best Wishes,
      Susie and Otto

  2. Just recently the guy I’ve been dating for a month made it clear to me that he is ready for a serious relationship. I was a little thrown back by this statement because we had only seen eachother a handfull when he said this. I like him alot, hey I may be falling for this guy but I feel this may be going too fast. When he ask for us to be exclusive he did say he didn’t want to waste his or my time and that he is not the type of guy to be with more than one women so he wanted the same and if I wasn’t ready for that to let him know, I said I was. This past weekend I spend the night with him and I received a text around 2:00 am stating “I wish u was here with me”, this was from a guy I used to date just like two months ago, he saw the text and his mood changed immediately. He demanded for me to call the guy and tell him that he stop texting or calling me and to put him on speaker so he could hear his response. It felt really awcquard however with some hesitation I did it. The guy sounded like he was surprised that I would ask that but he simply said ok and that he didn’t know that. After I hung up he ask if I had spoken to him since we bacame exclusive and I said no. He then proceeded to tell me that It sounded like I did. He also stated that we could check my phone record to see if I was not lying. That’s when I said that was a little extreme and that why wouldn’t he trust me. He said is not that I don’t trust you but if you don’t have anything to hide then there shouldn’t be a problem. I said ok whatever but I’m not going to be too happy after he checks through my personal phone record but that I didn’t have anything to hide, and then I went to sleep. In the morning I told him so you want to check let’s go in the computer and he said no that was ok. Wow I really like him alot but that was like Wow…. I don’t know what to do????

    • Marisa: Thank you for your comment. To put it very simply, we recommend that you stay aware. Your partner’s jealous reaction might have a lot more to do with his past experiences than to what actually happened with you (the text from your ex). The best thing you can do is to stay calm, don’t get defensive, be open and honest AND to be willing to set boundaries when necessary.

      Don’t assume that he will again be jealous or over-react, but be aware if he does. If it seems that he does have a habit of being jealous, you can create some agreements with him about this. Acknowledge to him what’s going on and how you feel about his behavior. Ask him how you can work with him to bring improvements.

      Him checking your personal email or phone records does not need to be a regular occurrence. You allowed this once, but this doesn’t mean he gets to do this all of the time. This might be a boundary you decide to set if that comes up again.

      It’s a bit of a tricky line. If you don’t have anything to hide, you probably don’t want to act as if you do by getting defensive or secretive. At the same time, it’s not okay for him to interrogate, accuse you or go through your private information without your permission.

      If your partner has had past betrayals or if he is insecure, take this into consideration. You cannot make him deal with things like this, but this is what he’ll need to do if he does have a jealous habit and he wants to overcome it.

      Again, the experience you had may not be something that he repeats. Maybe he does not have a jealous habit. Just stay aware and make choices about what you will and won’t allow in this relationship that feel authentic and respectful to you.

      You might find this free article helpful:

      Best Wishes,
      Susie and Otto

  3. Hi there,

    I need help. I feel like i’m falling out of love with my husband.
    we’ve been together for 6 years and we’ve been through a lot together- in-law issues, finances, me sacrificing and coping with a lot in general.
    we have a 6month old daughter who we both adore but recently we’ve been having intimacy issues where my hubby cant respond to me making sexual advances towards him, its only when he’s in the mood and i have my own rejection issues so i resort to porn or masturbate when i’m in the mood so i don’t get rejected by him.
    this has been going on for about 2years now.
    I feel like the combination of all our issues and now this recent one is pushing me over the edge to the point that i feel like i don’t even like him as a person anymore but he’s a really good man.
    Now we butt heads all the time over the simplest things.
    please help me!


    • Belinda: Thank you for posting. It is certainly true that, for many couples, intimacy troubles come up when there are unresolved issues and resentments that have built up. It sounds like this might be at least part of what is going on in your relationship.

      Take the time to identify the things that still feel raw, painful and unresolved for you when it comes to your husband. Are there some new ways to look at these unresolved problems so that you can find some healing, release and resolution? The more you can find a solution that you both can be okay with, the easier it will be to let go of your resentment and be more open to intimacy. This might also be a case where it’s time to forgive and let go of whatever happened in the past.

      Your husband might be dealing with some similar challenges to his sex drive– holding on to old resentments. Things like stress and insecurity can also really diminish sex drive.

      Watch your thoughts. If you make sexual advances toward your husband and he is not in the mood, pay attention to what you are thinking about that. Could it be that this is not a personal rejection after all? Could it be that he’s got other things going on that are affecting his sex drive? Is he open to connecting with you in other ways when he’s not in the mood for sex? Are you open to this?

      Try to find new ways to connect with him that are sensual, sexual and non-sexual too.

      And, ultimately, know that you get to choose whether or not you want to stay in the marriage. If things have changed for you and you are not happy in the relationship (and can’t see signs that things are changing), then it might be wise to consider whether staying in the marriage or leaving it is what you want to do.

      Best Wishes,
      Susie and Otto

  4. @ Belinda, I have an advice for you. Try to connect with your husband emotionally, while forgetting about all sexual dissatisfaction your are getting from him. Try to reach to his heart again and talk about the issues, which are bothering him. For time being, just try to reconnect on emotional, intellectual and spiritual level along with NO FIGHTS policy, and you will find out, your husband again making sexual advances to you in a month’s time!

  5. My bf and I have been together for 8 years since hs. We’ve stayed together through a lot of tough times! Addiction, health problem with my mom, his grand father dieing, him talking to girls, never admitted he cheated but his stories ab other guys makes me question that, life changing things and so much more. I have learned to trust him again its been over 2 year’s. Recently he decided he wants to be in the hip hop world. I’m all for him making his dream come true. I try to give him space. But he acts weird around his phone which he’s done in the past. Last this happened I had this strong gut feeling and OMG I was right. All the emails back n forth between this girl n him. Like “I love u… I never loved her” and I’m gonna break up with her to be with u and bad bad stuff! I forgave him moved forward and in ab a month. We r ab to move into a home together. The thing is he has no job right now n I’m scared I pay for things now n can barely make it. I don’t know if I’m making a huge mistake or not every time I try to talk ab it he gets defensive majority of the time all other times he says it will be OK my parents will help us. I don’t want help I appreciate it. I would like for us to try. Idk ab marriage he says he wants to but I feel like he says it to see how I react to it he knows I would but I feel like he toys with my emotions. Help me! Yea and we have been together since 16! He’s more than my bf he’s my best friend. I think he feels the grass is greener on the other side but I wonder it myself too.

    • Jessica: Thank you for your comment. From what you write, it sounds like there are a few inter-connected issues going on in your relationship. 1) Your mistrust because of his past betrayals 2) discomfort about money, his financial contribution (or lack of contribution) 3) what the future holds and possibly more.

      If it helps, break the issues you have down so that they might feel more manageable. When it comes to finances, for example, there are definitely some agreements that you two can make. You can support his dreams to be in the hip hop world AND have clear agreements with him about what you will contribute to supporting the two of you while he also makes a contribution. There are plenty of people who hold down full or part-time jobs while they also pursue their dreams. He can get creative and find ways to help without abandoning his dreams.

      In terms of the past lying (betrayals), this is an important opportunity for you two to work together to rebuild trust. He can be more open and transparent with you. Again, agreements are very useful tools. The trick is to make sure you are working together to come up with an agreement that you both truly will follow and that you both can live with. Here is an article about how to create conscious agreements:

      Stay aware. If he is acting “weird around his phone,” try to focus in on the reliable information you have about that. Without making an accusation or interrogating him (this is will only put him on the defensive), try to get to some facts that you can verify and then make decisions about what you will do from there. Ultimately, you want to make decisions about what is in your best interests. Yes, he is your best friend and you two have been together for a long time. But, make sure you are staying in the relationship because it’s wise as well as something you want to continue

      Best Wishes,
      Susie and Otto

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