You're feeling anxious. Your partner just texted that she's working late (again!) and you've prepared a special dinner. Darn! Will the roast be overcooked? Will the veggies get cold? You try not to notice your rising irritation: "My partner probably feels good about making the extra money, and God knows we need it." You're trying to be grateful.
These thoughts and feelings swirl around in a fog of conflicting emotions. Noticing these feelings, sorting them out and thinking about their impact is crucial to deeper understanding and better communication with your partner.
What good does noticing do? Noticing keeps us current with what we're feeling and how our partner affects us. This means slowing down and reflecting on what just happened or what feeling suddenly arose. If it's something your partner said or did, it's important to notice the way it makes you feel because then you can consider whether it's worth mentioning to your partner.
Sometimes it's a SITUATION you notice like how grumpy you are together while making dinner. What's going on here? Why am I grumpy? Am I hungry and tired? Yes, that's it. I'm just totally exhausted and taking it out on my partner. Now you can talk it over with her/him by saying," I notice we snipe at each other every evening when we cook together. We're both tired. Let's figure out a way to slow down and smooth this out. What do you think?" Or you can not mention it, and consider being more upbeat. It's a choice. So much better than just spewing more insults and attacks.
Your partner is NOT the enemy, but a sentient being who's struggling with his/her own vulnerabilities and ever-changing feelings. "I'll show him, the jerk!" Thinking through this anger before acting on it might help us. We need to learn how to notice a rising emotion or reaction and then take a moment to wonder what might have caused it and why. We need to step back and observe ourselves more often, so we can consider where it's coming from, what caused it. It's as if we create SPACE between feeling the intense emotion and lashing out.
In our sessions with couples, we ask a lot of questions to help us and the couple understand what they feel in various situations and what's going on deep inside, emotionally. We urge people to NOTICE what's really happening, underneath, and to THINK about the feelings for a minute and consider their origins. You get good at this the more you do it, and pretty soon you're quick to identify what emotions you're feeling. Then, you have the power to short-circuit a misunderstanding or a full-on argument.