What my dog taught me about timing and why it is important for your relationship
Two weeks ago, one of my biggest learning experiences started — with the arrival of our puppy Pepito. Yes, I had expected sleep deprivation and cleaning pee from the floor, but I had underestimated the amount of personal development required.
Suddenly I had to check in with myself: is my voice genuinely assertive or do I silently doubt myself? Where is the line between discipline and overprotection? And then the most difficult yet most important lesson: timing is key!
I admit that thoughts are frequently nagging me: he should be brushed right now or let me wipe off his tear strains immediately etc. However, insisting on my timing only makes this small task a draining and unpleasant experience: from biting to constant chasing of the brush to growling. My puppy is not having it because I am not respecting his space and mood.
Sometimes just waiting for half an hour makes a huge difference. Why? Because my dog is at a different energy level and the same is true for humans. Let me be clear I am not suggesting you should live on your dog’s or partner’s timing and neglect your own needs. Yet, as a couple coach, I notice that all too often we insist in our relationships that something needs to be done immediately, from household chores to sensitive discussions.
A lot of unnecessary escalations are purely down to poor timing.
Let me give you some recent examples from my coaching clients:
- Expecting laundry to be done during a partner’s stressful workday
- Questioning the whole relationship when the partner is half-asleep
- Insisting on an immediate answer despite the partner having said they need space
Let’s admit it: it is really challenging to wait for raising an issue that really bugs us or we deeply care about. Yet, as with my dog, impatiently pushing irrespective of the partner’s mood, energy level, etc is not likely to yield the desired engagement, answer or consideration.
For instance, that is where the downwards spiral starts: not only did the partner not do the laundry, additionally, they don’t even pay attention when you bring it up. Not only did they not write much throughout the day, but additionally they react annoyed or defensive when you point it out.
In most instances, it is not the case that your partner doesn’t care about you. Instead, it is about the wrong timing.
Reading this post, you might ask yourself: is she seriously expecting me to always patiently wait for the “right” moment? Or, if I wait for the right moment, issues will linger for a long time, doesn’t that make this matter worse? Let me be clear: ALWAYS waiting for the right time is neither feasible nor realistic.
Yet, the more you are in tune with your partner’s moods, stress level or pain level, the less likely you will have regrets about unnecessary arguments.
It is not about finding a perfect timing, but a better timing. Additionally, it is important to address issues timely but that doesn’t mean immediately.
Do you want to improve your timing in your romantic relationship?
Here are my top three tips:
Check in with your partner before wanting to raise an issue:
- Is your partner really stressed? Does your partner feel a lot of tension in their body? If so, either postpone the discussion or, alternatively, help your partner transition into a different mood/energy level, e.g. by doing exercise together first or giving them space to take a 15min walk
- Is your partner in a lot of physical pain? This is particularly tricky as they might not even realize that they are on edge due to physical pain. Yet, dealing with pain is draining and often leaves the person with less energy for empathy and patience. Bear this in mind when noticing your partner’s reactions being more impatient or less considerate than normal. This will help you attribute it to the pain and not your relationship.
- Is your partner extremely tired and worn out? Your partner will be less able to retain any complex information you are sharing. Ask yourself: can this discussion happen tomorrow morning? Are there other ways of communication e.g. a voice message that can be listened to when they have more energy?
Obviously, all the above tips also apply to your own mood/energy level/pain. Make sure you check in with yourself, too. You bring a certain energy to the table that has a strong impact on the course of the discussion.
Make sure you assume responsibility for both your own mood and the timing of a discussion — instead of simply blaming your partner when things escalate.