How To Give Your Partner Advice Without Sounding Negative Or Controlling
In a healthy relationship, you ultimately want what's best for your significant other. You want to see them succeed, because their happiness is important to you. It's natural to feel the urge to give them a push in the right direction, whether they're prepping for a job interview or facing a conflict with one of their friends. Showing you care by sharing your opinion means you're invested in the outcome, but it's key that you understand how to give your partner advice without sounding negative or controlling. The way you advise your partner can affect how they hear the advice itself — and whether or not they take it to heart.
There's a difference between telling your partner what to do and suggesting possible solutions to a problem they're struggling with. If you're always giving your significant other advice, they might feel like you're being too controlling — even if they haven't flat-out said so. Choosing when and how to help your partner out can feel tricky, but it's actually pretty simple. I spoke to licensed psychotherapist and mental health advocate Allison Abrams, LCSW-R, about ways to prevent your guidance from coming across as overbearing. Here's how to advise your partner in a positive and productive manner.
Consider The Golden Rule
There's a reason that the old adage "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is applicable in so many situations. Before you insert yourself into your significant other's business, think about how you would react if you were in their position. "Ask yourself if it were the other way around and your partner was treating you in the same manner, how would you perceive it? If the answer is controlling or negative in any way, that's likely how you're coming across to them," says Abrams. Sometimes it's best to let your partner work out the problem on their own.
Make Sure Your Intentions Are Good
If you are still planning on offering your knowledge, check in with yourself once more before you do so. "Ask yourself if it's advice that will serve your partner, or if it's more for yourself," says Abrams. "If it's the latter, keep it to yourself." Sometimes even the most selfless acts are actually a little bit selfish, deep down. If you are also going to benefit from your partner taking your advice, then are you acting in their best interests, or your own?
Ask, Don't Tell
In the event that you decide your advice is both helpful and necessary, there is still a right and a wrong way to talk to your partner about your opinion. You shouldn't be afraid to share your thoughts, but do it in a way that is respectful. "Not everyone loves unsolicited advice," says Abrams. "Given too often, it could be seen as obnoxious and this won't be good for the relationship." Even if you are confident about your recommendation, Abrams says the best way to go about it is by asking, "Would you like some advice?" Giving your partner the option beforehand encourages an open conversation, and prevents you from coming across as authoritative.
If It's About Their Safety, Express Your Concern
There is one exception, and that is if you are worried about your partner's health or well-being. If they are doing something that you think could be harmful to themselves or others, you shouldn't keep quiet. "Here, it is appropriate to express your concern in a loving and compassionate way," says Abrams. If you don't feel comfortable tackling the issue on your own, you can reach out to a trusted family member or mental health professional for help.
When providing your partner with guidance, try to do so in a kind and thoughtful way. Ask if they are open to hearing your opinion before you share it, and make sure the conversation is not one-sided. Above all, think about the behaviors that you are most receptive to, and emulate those strategies to the best of your ability.