It all begins with a thought, and a thought can be changed.
There’s something I’ve been noticing about people who try to read & follow a lot of good self-help stuff. A lot of people are, more and more, using “I feel” statements when trying to work out problems. This is a good thing, it really is, when used & done properly.They see it a lot on TV and in books, so it’s becoming more and more common-place practice to use “I feel” statements. Or, more accurately, misuse “I feel” statements.
She says, “I feel you are not spending enough time with me.”
Does anyone else see where this is just being done completely wrong? Anyone? Well, let me break it down for you. This is not a real “I feel” statement. You might be thinking, but it starts with “I feel” which it does, but look at the rest of the statement. Where does it mention an emotion? I don’t see one. What I see is two statements mashed together:
- “I feel…” This is a clear and basic statement. You feel. You are a human being with feelings. Wonderful. What’s your point? So is he. What does saying simply that really accomplish?
- “…you are not spending enough time with me.” This is not a feeling. It’s not an emotion. This is not even a thought process, perspective, or point of view. It’s a guilt-trip and an accusation, plain and simple.
See? That’s not actually an “I feel” statement. An “I feel” statement is very different. But the real “I feel” statements need to change, too. It’s not enough to just feel. We also need to think. In fact, people don’t realize they do; they just don’t do it very often. See, we can’t have an emotion without some kind of thought to ignite it. You don’t feel lonely, so then think it must be because he’s not spending enough time with you; you are going about your life and, suddenly one day, you think to yourself, “he sure hasn’t been spending much time with me lately” and BAM! You begin thinking more about how he’s not spending time with you, and feeling more and more lonely and neglected. Somewhere along the lines, though, saying “I think” as part of the whole “I feel” statement process of problem solving became the equivalent to an accusation or translated into “You’re wrong” or “you’re an ass.” I have no friggin clue when or how.
Thing of it is, “I think” is nothing more than the intellectual equivalent of “I feel”. It’s a statement of thought processes, perspective, and/or point of view. That’s all. I think that’s not only just as valid, but just as important to finding a solution. Right now, so many problems happen between people because they don’t think. They feel bad, they react without thinking, they cause damage, they feel worse, they react worse without thinking, they cause more damage… over and over. People don’t think, or they only think and don’t feel, though the latter is a rare problem these days.
“I feel neglected and lonely because I think you are not spending enough time with me.”
- “I feel neglected and lonely” Ok, right off the bat, there’s progress. A statement of what her actual feelings are. This allows him to begin to understand why she has been behaving differently lately, and why her body language might have changed. This kind of communication is important in relationships.
- “…I think you are not spending enough time with me.” Let’s be clear – this is not an accusation. This is not a guilt-trip. This is simply stating the thought processes that caused the feelings. She’s not accusing him of not spending time with her, she’s saying she thinks that; as in that is how it seems from her perspective.
So, now we’ve got a clear “I feel/think” statement. Yay! We’ve completed the first step to improving relations! So, what’s next?
I can just here a few people scratching their heads thinking, “What? They’ve solved the problem; the solution is easy, he needs to spend more time with her.” BZZZZT!!!! Wrong! Thanks for playing. We haven’t solved the problem, we’ve only begun finding the problem. The problem isn’t that she’s feeling neglected; that just signifies that there is a problem. So, now comes the real detective work – finding what was or wasn’t done to inspire the thought which created the feeling.
Oh, and I hear you over there at the back, thinking “Well, he made her think that by neglecting her.” BZZZT!!! Wrong again! No one can make you do, feel or think anything you choose not to. All anyone can do is inspire, convince, or limit your options. Lets say, as an example, the couple from our example have no kids, and he owns his own little retail business. Well, times are tough around the world these days, so rather than hire a new staff member that they don’t have the money to pay, he might take on more hours. She could focus on the thought of, “he works hard to keep that store open so we have food and a home.” She could then think about offering to spend the late shifts with him at the store, rather than home waiting for him. On the flip side, he could be spending a small portion of that extra time planning little romantic gestures that would remind her that he still cares and isn’t trying to neglect her.
She focused on him not spending a lot of time with her – why is that? Has he been out a lot? Has he been canceling dates more often of late? Has he been very untalkative compared to how he usually is? Asking questions can help narrow down what of his behaviors might have inspired the thought. This is where steps 2 & 3 are actually kind of the same and can be done together – brainstorming solutions. Is there anything he could do to help her not feel neglected when he’s not able to spend as much time with her? Was she misinterpreting things from him (behaviors, words) that could just need to be clarified? Is there ways she can proactively spend time with him, instead of waiting for him to come spend time with her?
And, lastly, take the solutions you both feel will be the most likely to work for both of you, and put them to the test. There’s no reason to keep focusing & dwelling on how it made you feel, not to the extent that it keeps affecting the relationship. Sure, sometimes feelings don’t run their course as easily or quickly as thought processes, but recognize that your feelings are just that – your feelings. If you’ve got a solution that works, and you’re both working at it, just do what you need to (within reason) to let those feelings run their course and then let them go into the past. Don’t hold them against your significant other when they are following through on the solution you both agreed to. And on the other side, don’t allow your spouse to guilt-trip you into joining her in feeling bad just because she’s not willing to let go of those feelings.
People wonder why relationships seem so hopeless and dead-end these days. Truth is, it’s because people feel too much, don’t think enough, and are being too lazy to make the effort for them to work.