If you have found yourself in a troubled relationship, there is a good chance you grew up with tension or people who argued often.
This means your role models for how to treat your partner taught you some bad habits that must be re-learned. As a result, you might find yourself flailing, hoping things will get better with your partner but not really knowing what you can do or wishing they would change, when in fact you know that you can only change your own behavior.
One of the most important factors in a healthy relationship is good communication. Most couples that come to meet me tell me that they have trouble talking about conflict and feel they cannot communicate with each other effectively. If you are currently working toward mending or improving your relationship, here are some communication tips from the experts:
Give them your FULL Attention
We live in the age of technology, which means we are often looking at our devices instead of each other. Eye contact breeds connection. You know looking at your screen hinders communication.
It can be hard to break the habit, but when your partner speaks immediately reply kindly – ‘just a sec’ or something similar and ASAP, mute or turn the TV off, put the phone down, and make kind and curious eye contact. Tell yourself – they are not interrupting something, they are reaching for connection – mindful prep of your own mindset will help you form new habits of loving non-defensive attention.
There are those relationships that suffer because one person has been unfaithful. But oftentimes, a broken relationship is the result of two broken people. Take responsibility for your part in the trouble. Admit to your mistakes and commit to trying harder.
Rules for conflict conversations
It’s not easy to hear someone say negative things about your behavior but resist the urge to cut off your partner when they are saying something you don’t like or agree with and try not to interrupt. You will need to do some self-soothing at times. I often suggest a sticky note inside the cupboard of all the places arguments can erupt – it uses 4 S’s that serve as reminders of how to talk to each other. It is easier to avoid interrupting a long ‘lecture,’ if you both agree on the S’s. They concern the speaker approach: Simply, Slowly, Softly and Stop. Stopping to let the other person summarize by saying, “What do you think about that,” can provide a prompt for the other person to reflect on what was said.
Listen with curiosity
When your partner is talking, you should be hearing every word they say, not thinking about how you are going to respond. Many people are bad listeners. Listening is a skill you will have to develop over time, but why not start now?
Most couples I work with need practice in session to really use these types of communication tips. Give them a try for a much better chance of reconnecting with your partner and making things work. And if you’d like to find a therapist that can guide you in your recovery, please reach out to me. I would be happy to talk with you about how I may be able to help and I offer a 1/2 hour in person consultation for that purpose.