How To Tell Your Partner You're Upset Without Blaming Them

Are you annoyed that your partner gets angry or defensive when you talk about something that makes you upset? Do you find it hard to be understood?

If this sounds like you, "I" statements can help.

What an “I” statement is

An “I” statement is a communication tool that expresses how you feel about your partner’s behavior without blaming them.

"I" statements help you solve problems by opening up a constructive conversation. Using "I" statements is a non-threatening way to talk; it lets you express your feelings in a way that doesn't make your partner defensive or shut down.

Features of good “I” statements

The following are some features of good “I” statements.

  • They show that you take responsibility for how you feel about your partner's actions and do not blame them for these feelings.
  • They help your partner understand why you don't like how they act.
  • They don't give your partner thoughts and feelings you're not sure are true.
  • They make your relationship stronger because being honest and open about how you feel and what you think brings you closer emotionally.

Features of bad “I” statements:

Even though they start with "I," bad "I" statements sound like they are accusing your partner.

For example:

“I hate it when you don’t tell me you’ll be late.”

The difference between “you” statements and  “I” statements

“You” statements blame your partner for the situation and attempt to hold them responsible for your feelings.

“You” statements are statements in which you tell your partner:

  • What their feelings are
  • How they must interpret things
  • What they want

For example:

You don’t care about our budget because you splurge on a whim.

On the other hand, “I” statements invite your partner to think about the situation and problem-solve with you.

For example:

“I get stressed when you buy things spontaneously without us having a conversation about it first because I’m afraid it will hurt our financial health.”

How to form “I” statements
These four steps will help you form “I” statements to communicate more effectively.

  1. Use the word “I” at the beginning of the sentence.
  2. State what you feel.
  3. Describe the event that stirred your uncomfortable feelings or thoughts.
  4. Describe the effect this event had on you.

Examples:

  • I get worried when you are out with the boys, and don’t text me to let me know when you will be home.
  • I feel disappointed because I thought we agreed on something else.
  • I feel scared whenever someone yells at me.
  • I feel hurt because I wasn’t told the whole story.

How to rephrase “you” statements” into “I” statements

Whether you are expressing your concerns or are asking for your needs to be met, be mindful of turning a “you” statement into an “I” statement. Consider the following examples.

Instead of:

“You don’t hold your end of the chores around here.”

Say:

“I feel overwhelmed by the tasks around the house and would appreciate it if you could help me.”

Final thoughts

Communication is a two-way street. It benefits your relationship if both you and your partner use “I” statements when trying to resolve conflict.

Want to learn more?

Do you want to learn more about using “I” statements and avoiding blaming your partner when you’re upset? We invite you to join our 3-day journey, “Making Your Needs and Wants Known Using “I” Statements,” a therapist-led, step-by-step video course.

For a preview of the journey, click here.

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