I regularly see couples to help them improve their communication. After being together for a while, communication can deteriorate, resentment can build up and intimacy and connection diminishes. Common problems with communicaton involve couples making assumptions about what their partner is thinking, usually in a negative manner.
Then child mode ensues – well if they don’t care about me then I am not going to care about them. Tit-for-tat behaviour never works in relationships. Deflection is another negative way to communicate that only serves to create more problems. An example of delfection:
Person A: You didn’t tell me that you would be out late tonight. I really don’t like that.
Person B: Well, you didn’t warn me last week when you came home late. (This is deflection where the original issue – Person B being late isnt dealt with and Person B throws something back at Person A so as not to have to deal with their own behaviour.
I have put together tips for better communication. How to improve communication in your relationship in a nutshell:
Talk about feelings
Feelings can’t be argued with. A feeling needs to be validated whether the other person understands why the feeling is there or not. You can’t tell someone they are wrong for feeling a certain way. Empathy is required for why the feeling exists in the first place.
Rather than focus on what the other person is doing that upsets you, let them know how what they are doing makes you feel.
Use assertive script
In order to get the other person to listen to you, it is important to deliver the message sensitively. The better you are at doing this, the more likely it will be that you will get your partner to listen rather than to close down and become defensive. If you start the conversation with “You always….” or “You never..” it can come across as aggressive and if the other person feels attacked they will stop listening to you and effective communication is over. INstead use this formula known as “assertive script” to get your point across:
“I feel…. (sad/angry/frustrated/lonely/ignored etc) when you…. (fill in a behaviour here), so what I would liek you to do is…
An example: I feel ignored when you constantly use your mobile phone during dinner, so I’d like it if you could put it away when we eat dinner together.
You are fare more likely to get a positive reaction if you use assertive script rather than saying “You always ignore me…”. Using assertive script is a far mroe measured way to communicate your feelings and what you would like.
Ask for what you want
Don’t just expect the other person to know what you want. Sometimes we expect our partner to know what we want and what we expect and then when they don’t deliver, we take it personally. It is far more mature to ask for what you want. Tell them you hope they have remembered your birthday than wait for them to fail. Tell them if you want them to spend more time with you, don’t tell them it doesn’t matter and then seethe with resentment when they don’t make extra time for you. You are responsible for aksing for what you want. If you don’t ask that’s your fault. Your partner isn’t a mind reader. If you ask and they still can’t or won’t deliver then you have something to talk about, you have done your part and you can then go to the next step by problem solving why your partner is finding it difficult to give you the quality time you need.
Avoid blaming and shaming
It’s SUCH a waste of valuable time and energy arguing over who is at fault. Rather, spend time trying to figure out how to solve the problem and move forward. Blaming and shaming your partner leads to guilt and negative emotions and when a relationship becomes a source of bad feeling and makes you feel awful about yourself, the relationship will suffer and the future of the realtionship may be bleak. Be open and honest (use assertive script) and try to find ways around the problem together. Rathe than focusing on WHO is to blame, try to figure out WHY it is happening and collaboratively try to find a solution that works for both of you.
Give positive feedback
Everyone needs to feel valued and loved and if you can help your partner to feel this way, they will love you for it. When they do something that you appreciate, let them know. This helps to give them guidance too in terms of what you enjoy and like. Spread kindness and goodwill in your relationship – it is so important to keep the positive loving feelings alive. After we have been in a relationship for a while, we can become complacent. Always make time for appreciation and let your partner know.
Every relationship takes work. Connect regularly by checking in with each other. We all lead busy lives and chores can take over leading to distance in the relationship. Take time to talk about feelings and how happy you are. Do fun things together and take time out from the monotony of life. This can especially be a challenge once children come along but it is more important than ever once children come along to place importance upon your relationship and not to place all effort and focus into the children – this is very short sighted and the relationship will suffer long term.
Relationships can be a source of great intimacy, friendship and connection but it takes good communication, consideration and compromise.