by Lisa Brookman, MSW, PSW
My friends and I often discuss our relationships and support one another through our ups and downs. From sex to child rearing, nothing is taboo or too deep. So when Jane called me to vent the other day, I made the time to talk to her. Jane and Michael have been married for many years and on most days they are a great couple dealing with everyday issues. Jane was mad at Michael. She was feeling down and wanted Michael to tell her what she needed to help her feel better. She had been holding a grudge for three days and she was feeling exasperated.
“We keep having the same fight over and over again. and nothing changes. I feel like Michael and I are speaking two different languages. I wish he understood me better!”
Does this sound familiar?
Every couple argues….
As many of you might already know, it’s really hard to effectively communicate with your partner. We’re so busy, working, driving carpool, making supper and finishing everything else on our to do list. Who has time to talk and tell their partner what they really have on their mind? Sometimes it’s too much work to open up that can of worms, so shutting down our feelings, rather than having a heated discussion, is sometimes more appealing and much easier.
7 Tips for Better Communication:
- Prioritize each other: With today’s busy lifestyles, it’s often difficult to find time to talk without distraction. Set aside some time weekly to sit with your partner to discuss each other.
- Talk in person. Avoid talking about serious matters or issues in writing. Text messages, letters and emails can be misinterpreted and lack a personal connection.
- Tell the truth. Embrace honesty. Unfortunately sometimes the truth hurts, but it’s essential to a having healthy relationship. Don’t forget to apologize when you make a mistake instead of being defensive or making excuses. Recognize that you might not necessarily be communicating as effectively as you’d like and remember to also be patient with yourself and your partner as communication is an ongoing process.
- Listen actively: Listening is an extremely important and useful skill that is greatly appreciated by those around you. Validate and try to find meaning in what your partner is saying. Ask questions that may help you better understand their concerns. Fine tuning our listening skills takes time and practice. When you master the art of listening, it will take your communication to the next level.
- Use “I” instead “You” statements. When you begin your statement with “You”, you’re generally relaying a message that can be perceived as an attack or criticism. Instead, voice your concerns with, “ I feel… or I need…” This way of expressing yourself will encourage you to honestly say how you’re feeling and how you’re being affected by the discussion. Your partner is more likely to hear your concern when you take ownership for your feelings.
- Don’t expect a mind reader: Don’t play games and expect them to “just know”. Whether you are just dating or have been married for 35 years, you must make your thoughts, expectations and desires clear to your partner on an ongoing basis. Take a Time Out!
- Have resolutions: If your partner does something that makes you feel hurt and angry, you should to tell them about it. If you don’t speak up, then the issue get swept under the rug but unfortunately does not go away. Speak up, express how you feel, try to find a resolution and then MOVE ON!
Communication is NOT easy and to many, it doesn’t come naturally. It’s a skill that with great practice and perseverance develops over time. Effective communication is key to a healthy couple’s relationship and without it problems arise, people are misunderstood ad coupes drift apart.
However with the right communication techniques, talking to your partner doesn’t have to seem so daunting! With hard work and perseverance you could be on your way to a healthier, happier relationship.