Five Steps to Better Relationships | Diana Castillo Eddy, LMFT
Even the most loving couples are bound to run into a few bumps along the road to happily ever after. And while the truly relationship minded will sit down and have all of the most important conversations – those pertaining to money, kids, sex, and housing – before taking their commitment to the next level, there’s really no way to avoid the occasional spat. However, recognizing potential communication hurdles ahead of time gives you a much better chance of weathering the storms as they appear.
In fact, the most successful couples are the ones that have learned how to communicate openly with each other – even if that means relying on a little trial and error to discover the methods that work best for you. Here are five ideas for problem-solving strategies to resolve your toughest communication dilemmas.
One: Watch your Language…
Body language, that is. Keep in mind that a huge part of effective communication is active listening. Let your partner know that what they have to say is important by giving them the attention they deserve during a serious conversation. Crossed arms and furrowed brows give off hostile vibes, so keep your stance relaxed but attentive. Don’t fidget or pick at your nails, and avoid looking at your watch.
Make sure your significant other knows you’re really hearing them by nodding when appropriate, and rephrasing their words if necessary. Try something like “what I hear you saying is that you’d like me to help out more around the house,” and they’ll realize that you were in fact getting their point.
Two: Make Time to Talk
There’s no getting around it: most of us are living in fast forward. But sometimes, all of that information, technology, and drive can take a dent out of our communication skills. You can’t listen or talk effectively while you’re texting, checking email, reading news, playing Angry Birds, or flipping through TV channels.
Instead, set aside time to really talk. Take communicating with each other as seriously as you would a meeting or appointment at work. Put the kids to bed, switch off the television, set your cell on silent and leave all incoming calls to voicemail. Not only will you feel like you’re being taken more seriously, but your partner will appreciate your undivided attention, as well.
Three: Take it Outside
Yelling and screaming is NOT communicating. Raising your voice only leads to hurt feelings – not to mention that no one can shout and listen at the same time. If you find that you and your partner can’t discuss a particular topic without yelling, take your conversation out of the house.
Sitting at a coffee shop or on a park bench, you’ll be too embarrassed to shout, and keeping your voices down might just be what you need to have a real conversation.
Four: Set up Ground Rules
Every couple knows that occasional conflict is unavoidable. Before taking your relationship to a new level (i.e. marriage or moving in together) take a moment to set some rules for when an argument breaks out. No need to create a laundry list of dos and don’ts. Simply banning phrases like “you never” or “you always” is a good start. Another good rule of thumb? Don’t interrupt the other person while they’re talking.
Five: Agree to Disagree
Finally, remember that just because you love someone doesn’t mean that you have to share the same opinion about absolutely everything. Variety is the spice of life, and those differences can often make for the most interesting conversations. So, while you should never ignore things that are truly bothering you, sometimes it’s a good idea to simply agree to disagree.