By Scott Parker, CSW
When people don’t act the way we want them to, it is tempting to teach them a lesson by getting grumpy. “If they can feel how upset their actions are making me, maybe they will change,” the thought goes. The problem is, this strategy mostly negatively affects the one who is grumpy. The offending party may not even realize why you are grumpy, or they may come to see you as an unreasonable person, and dismiss your emotions all-together.
Instead of using your emotions as a boundary to keep a loved-one in line, having a conversation about consequences can be far more effective. For example, if your spouse frequently comes home late from work, rather than giving them the cold shoulder–which can make your relationship suffer–you might consider saying something like this: “Sweetheart, I want to apologize for being grumpy when you come home from work late. I love you, and will work on showing you that by being more warm to you, regardless of when you get home from work. That being said, I do miss spending time with you. If you come home on time, I would love to have dinner with you and watch our favorite show together. If you continue to come home late, I will still be warm toward you, but you will have to make your own dinner, and I will watch our show without you. You are free to do this if you choose, and I will not hold it against you.”
It is important that such a communication of consequences be genuine–that way, you can be free to continue loving your partner, and know that the consequences of their actions are clear so they can change if they so choose. This will also free you to be happy regardless of your spouse’s actions.