All you want to do is get him to help.
To make a LITTLE effort.
To CARE about your needs.
But every time you try to talk to him about it, he shuts down. He fobs you off.
He acts like you’re nagging him.
Look, a relationship is a partnership.
It’s supposed to be 50-50. You’re not supposed to do EVERYTHING.
How do you get him to listen?
Dr. Jessica Higgins has been working with couples stuck in this critical-defensive pattern for over 20 years.
Her secret is reframing requests so that they’re positive and from the heart.
You’ll learn how a few simple language changes can inspire him to want to help you.
You’ll learn why you can’t get through to him when you make it about him.
And you’ll find out how to reverse-engineer your requests so you get down to the truth of what you really want and need.
What You’ll Learn
If your guy shuts down on you, you’re not alone.
Research by the Gottman Institute reveals that 80% of stonewallers are men.
Even though men have the same capacity for empathy as women, they’re not often raised with the same conversations around emotions and relationships as women.
So when their partner comes to them with feelings of anger or frustration, their alarm bells go off.
Instead of meeting their partner where she’s at, they close down and distance themselves.
This is part of a broader pattern of pursuit-withdrawal.
“Typically, there’s someone who’s seeking connection—which would be the pursuer—and then someone who is … the withdrawer, who tends to be more focused on keeping stability or protecting the safety of the dynamic,” Dr. Higgins explains.
Both parties are trying to get their needs met.
She seeks connection.
He seeks stability.
The key is to find a way for both of them to get what they need.
Why He Gets Defensive
You deserve to get your needs met in your relationship.
But you may have never learned how to ask him in a way that inspires action.
When he doesn’t do something he promised, you don’t think twice about telling him, “Hey, you said you’d do it, and you didn’t.”
What could be critical about that?
You’re just stating the facts. You’re not calling him names. Surely that’s no big deal.
But statements that, to you, seem innocuous can come across very differently to him.
You’re calling him out on his behavior. He feels attacked. His protective strategy is to shut down.
That’s why he gets defensive.
He hears you criticizing him, even though that wasn’t your intention.
The Problem with Criticism
Criticism is a main predictor for divorce.
It’s a sign that all is not well in the relationship.
When you’re criticizing, you’re coming from your head, not your heart.
You’re telling him what you think he should do.
“Your significant other cares about you, cares about how you feel, and cares about your experience,” Dr. Higgins says. “They don’t actually care that much about whether or not you think they’re right … or whether they could be doing it better.”
Not only is criticism damaging, but it doesn’t work.
“If you’re asking for help or you’re trying to get a need met but it’s being packaged in criticism, they’re getting distracted by that delivery,” says Dr. Higgins, “and they’re not even hearing what you want, what you need.”
That’s why you need to learn a new way to ask for what you need.
A way that inspires him to lean in because he cares for you and wants to support you.
It Can’t Be About Him
“There’s no crafty skillful way to talk about the other person and [have] them not get defensive,” Dr. Higgins says.
As long as the delivery and the focus is on the other person, it won’t go well.
“We have to do a level of work to access, ‘What is it that I’m feeling? What is it that I’m needing?’ and reveal that more vulnerably.”
Dr. Higgins suggests reverse-engineering your request.
If my partner were to do X, Y, and Z—pick up their shoes in the middle of the path, or do the dishes, take out the trash, whatever it is—what would that allow me to feel?”
She offers some help in learning to reformulate your requests.
It’s a free guide to shifting from criticism to connection.
You’ll learn how to get to the underlying need or vulnerability behind what you want of him.
The guide gives a side-by-side comparison of critical statements and how those can be transformed into constructive requests.
When Conflict is Entrenched
Not all couples can magically start hearing each other better as a result of this new language.
“If there’s an entrenched pattern here, where there’s the pursuer and the distancer—one person’s protesting and … they’re trying to seek connection around an issue or a hurt or a pain point, and the other partner has been turning away—that’s going to feel very unsafe for both people,” she explains.
That lack of emotional safety makes the couple feel as if they’ve lost their connection.
She doesn’t feel like he is really present for her. He doesn’t feel like she has his back.
At that point, professional support can help.
Dr. Higgins also offers an online course for couples called The Connected Couple.
Where to Next
If you’d like to learn how to motivate your guy to support you, make sure to get your free guide now.
Dr. Higgins adds, “Criticism is not necessarily inherently bad. It’s just recognizing when our partner can’t access us and and the emotional connection again.”
If we notice that we tend to use criticism, we’re likely intelligent, and we likely have really good critical thinking skills. We don’t want to throw that out completely. We’re looking at how to complement relational skills that allow our partner to see us more clearly and respond to us more efficiently.”
Dr. Jessica Higgins
With two graduate degrees in psychology, two coaching certifications, and over 20 years of experience helping clients achieve successful results, Dr. Higgins offers an integrative and comprehensive blend of psychology and coaching all in one. She is also the host of the Empowered Relationship Podcast which inspires, motivates, and guides individuals and couples into more empowered, conscious, and evolved ways of loving. Find out how you can work with Dr. Higgins.