Esther Perel - Stop Bickering - It Is Killing Your Relationship - Transcript

Below is the edited transcript of the video.

Question:

We bicker all the time. She is so critical of me, I feel like I can not do anything right.

bickering is low intensity chronic warfare.

It is this notion that every time one person says something, the other person has a reaction to it. You have got this proximity and it is constantly negative friction. It is not a positive spark, it is just negative heat, all the time.

One of the most important elements of the demise of a couple is criticism, ongoing hyper criticism, because it produces the actual opposite effect of what we seek when we are loved and when we love somebody which is to feel good about ourselves.

If, as a result of being with someone, you end up feeling so much of the time lousy, unloved, uncared for, devalued, inadequate, inept, all of what the question is talking about, you really are on the wrong side of the tracks.

What can you do?

The first thing is, when you are in critical mode, you are rarely reflecting, you are constantly reacting. There is a big difference.

Reflection requires a little bit of time in between, a little bit of space, a moment to even think what the other person meant, before you automatically assume that you know, and you are on automatic pilot.

Generally, when you are in critical mode, your assumptions are negative. You do not assume that the other person had good intentions, you always are on the assumption that it was meant to be hurtful, meant to be dissing you, etc.

Criticism sits on top of a mountain of disappointments, of unmet needs, of unfulfilled longings. Behind a criticism, there is often a wish.

When I tell you “you never do something” what I am also trying to tell you is that I wish that you would it. I recommend that you actually state your wish. Just say the thing you would want.

But then, often, I am going to get “but I have already done that and I got nothing”. So rather than experience the vulnerability of putting myself out there, asking the question, and waiting for the possibility that you will not meet me, that you will not hear me, that you will disregard my request, I prefer to launch into anger, than to experience the hurt.

And yet, the more you go for the anger, the more you are going to get anger back, and you are on a cycle of negative escalations.

You have to say “this hurts”, “I wish you would do this more”, “it would mean a lot if you did”, “when you don’t I feel this way”. Stay with the request.

When you get into your long list of all the things that never happen, or always happen but are negative, it is basically always saying that there is only room for one person in the relationship:

First of all, leave the never and always out of it.

Then, instead of “we never go to the movies”, if what you really want is to go to the movies, then say it simple: “can we go to the movies”, “I would love to go to the movies”, “I bought tickets for the movies”. Just talk about the movies. Don’t interpret the movies with the subtext that is about the fact that the other person is purposefully neglecting you.

See the difference:

badgood
“we never go to the movies”“you know, what I really miss is when we used to go to the movies, it would be really fun if we went again”
“I am always the one who does the dishes"

“you never do the dishes”

“when is the last time that you ever put a plate in the sync, let alone in the dishwasher?”
“you know what, I had a really long day and I am exhausted, can you do the dishes tonight?”

Do you see the difference? Do you see which one is more likely do get you the thing that you are asking for?

When you see the difference between these two, you may think “but I am right, it is true that the other person never does it” and I would say you may be right, but it is not going to get you what you want.

Do you want to be right or do you want to be married?

Being wise is better than being right.

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Updated on 2021 Jul 17.

DISCLAIMER: This is not professional advice. The ideas and opinions presented here are my own, not necessarily those of my employer.