I’m working with a high-conflict couple. Both feel unseen, unappreciated and unacknowledged for their efforts. Both feel the other belittles their contributions.
This is common amongst divorcing people and the primary reason intimate relationships breakdown.
People crave recognition and just might seek it elsewhere if they don’t get it at home. It’s a challenge in intimate relationships because we’re all incredibly fragile.
When I say, “the kitchen’s a mess.” I’m stating a fact, but my husband hears it as, “Why haven’t you cleaned it? You lazy SOB.”
In fact, he’s been known to perceive my statement as an accusation, as if I said, “You never do anything round here,” So, he responds “but I do a lot around the house. I just bought the groceries, folded the laundry.” If I’m talking about the kitchen I’d say, “I wasn’t talking about the groceries or laundry.”
It’s hard to ignore what you hear as an accusation and refrain from defensiveness. However, looping back is a great start. “You’re right, it’s true the kitchen’s a mess.” Then, generate options. “Do either of us have time to clean it or we could do it together? Would you prefer to load the dishwasher or clear the counters? Or should we let it fester till the weekend, like we did when we started dating?” Adding a touch of humor never goes astray.