Somehow, you’re here again. No matter how hard you try, you and your partner can’t seem to land on the same page. You keep running into the same issue. Perhaps you thought you resolved the problem, but the tension continues to resurface.
There’s no doubt that you love each other, but you’re finding yourself hitting dead ends. Over and over again. You’re tired of the shouting or the silent treatment or having the same argument every other week. You know there’s a better way, and you’re not sure why you both can’t figure that out.
Despite some misconceptions, effective communication isn’t necessarily inherent. Most couples need to learn, practice, and revisit the skills throughout their relationship. Let’s explore the basic building blocks.
Identify Your Communication Shortcomings
To improve your relationship health, you must be willing to reflect on your own strengths and weaknesses. We all have communication shortcomings. These shortcomings may include:
There’s a good chance you learned these communication strategies from your own family. Over the years, they were reinforced in other dynamics and relationships. At some point, they become defense mechanisms- a safe way to “protect” yourself in times of stress.
That said, acknowledging your shortcomings- and having the willingness to work on them- is one of the best steps you can take to enhance your relationship.
Practice Active Listening
Are you guilty of only hearing your partner during your interactions? When he or she is talking, are you brainstorming your next rebuttal? First of all, you’re not alone. Many of us struggle to listen. However, if this is the case, you’re missing a pivotal piece of effective communication.
In times of conflict, remaining emotionally present is crucial. You need to be able to fully listen to your partner’s needs, feelings, and desires. Therein lies the beautiful art of active listening.
Active listening entails the conscious effort of slowing down and truly listening to your partner. You need to remove any distractions and turn off the technology. You need to be able to surrender your full attention.
Aim to lean into your partner- even if you feel upset. Ideally, you want to listen without expectations or judgment. You want to listen with the intention of better understanding your partner.
Active listening doesn’t require that you agree with your partner’s opinion. It just means that you’re respecting their perspective and promoting a safe opportunity for him or her to express it.
Blaming, criticizing, or attacking your partner tends to result in emotional withdrawal and disconnect. Rather than resolving the issue, such reactions increase the polarization between the two of you.
I-statements allow you to express your thoughts and feelings without making assumptions about your partner. The premise is simple. You practice owning your emotions with a statement like, I feel upset when you don’t do the dishes after agreeing to do so.
These statements exhibit accountability for your feelings. They also let your partner know where you stand about a particular situation.
In times of extreme stress (like a major argument), it can be unproductive to rehash the same issue. One or both of you might start feeling upset, overwhelmed, and frightened. This is when having a ‘self-soothing’ strategy is essential.
Self-soothing may mean taking a 10-minute break. It may also mean spending going for a walk or practicing a few deep breathing exercises. Remember that this strategy is healthy for both of you. Healthy relationships are built on mutual respect; shouting, attacking, and blaming one another will only perpetuate tension.
Consider identifying a trigger word that the two of you can use when getting heated. This word will signify, I need a break! Once you’ve both settled, you can resume the conversation with a more neutral approach.
Acknowledge What You Appreciate
Even when we love them, it’s easy to take our partners for granted. With all our daily responsibilities, we can quickly fall into mindless ruts, where we simply ‘coexist’ with our loved ones. That said, this dynamic can breed animosity.
Make an effort to continuously focus and show your gratitude as often as you can. Remember why you’re with your partner! Remember why you fell in love with each other!
You don’t need to use extravagant gestures to convey your appreciation. A genuine compliment, handwritten note, or a surprise date night out can go a long way.
Approach The Problem Together
Many couples fall into the trap of pitting themselves against each other in times of adversity. When both parties become invested in being right, they can turn into enemies. This approach doesn’t solve the problem- and it certainly doesn’t build connection.
Instead, try and tackle problems together as a team. Don’t lose sight of why you love each other. You are partners-in-crime. Together, you can combine your strengths to resolve whatever lies ahead of you.
If you can keep this mentality at the forefront of your relationship, you can learn to collaborate in managing difficult issues.
Consider Professional Support For Effective Communication
Have you already been practicing some self-help techniques? Do you feel like you keep taking one step forward- and five steps back?
Couples therapy can help you with a variety of issues related to disconnection, intimacy struggles, infidelity, and transitional conflicts. In your sessions, you will both learn how to express your needs safely and productively.
You both deserve to have a happy, healthy, and supportive relationship. If you’re ready to learn and practice effective communication, I can help!