No one likes to admit they’ve made a mistake, and it can be even harder if they expect to the admission to be the start of a fight with his partner. Sometimes a delay like this can complicate the situation or even make it worse. If your partner doesn’t immediately report an overdraft to you, for instance, you won’t know to avoid using your debit card, and your account could become even more overdrawn.
While it is upsetting to hear bad news, especially about something preventable, focusing on the mistake and berating your partner for her lapse in judgement does not benefit your marriage. Reacting angrily is likely to make him even more reluctant to admit mistakes in the future. Here are some ways you can respond to confessions that will encourage your partner to tell you bad news immediately:
1. Don’t pretend to not be disappointed, shocked, or angry, but acknowledge that the mishap was an accident and not a deliberate act.
2. If you need to, step out of the conversation while you think through the dilemma. Be sure to tell your partner that you are taking a break to gather your thoughts and that you are not avoiding the conversation. Resuming the discussion when you’re calm will help keep it from escalating into an argument.
3. Focus your attention on the results of the mistake, not on how or why the mistake was made. It’s OK to show that you’re unhappy that your bank account is overdrawn, but berating your spouse for something she’s done is non-productive and derails the discussion that you two should be having.
4. Figure out, together, how to correct the mistake and prevent it from happening again. This includes acknowledging any role you might have played – could you have warned him that the bank balance was low? Should you have given her a heads up that the electric bill was unusually high? Do you avoid making a budget?
Making it difficult for your spouse to admit a mistake adds a problem to a problem. If you can learn to keep your emotions in check and your discussions productive, your spouse will be much more likely to confess mistakes before they are compounded. Good communication and teamwork can prevent a lot of potential problems.