Over last few year I have met some pretty awesome people in couples’ counseling. Usually the issues that bring them to me have less to do with loss of love and more to do with a lack of healthy communication. I am convinced that the individual work it takes to help develop those skills is a lot less emotionally expensive than the reality of divorce. I am happy to say that most of couples that I have worked with, when both parties are truly committed, were able to quickly learn lessons that would help them develop and grow a healthier relationship. For this reason, I decided to share and I hope others can benefit from the top five communication tips I usually give out in my couples’ counseling sessions.
- Stop with the complaint that your partner does not understand your needs. Instead of complaining, ask for what you want in concrete, clear and measurable terms. In counseling, my goal is to help people see that many times they are treating their partners like “mind readers.” So, the work requires that both individuals need to ask their partner to do some things that would change their current dynamic. This will help each feel better about being heard and understood in the relationship. For example, if your husband asked you to stop throwing things during an argument, you need to hear him being honest about the escalating anger, making it difficult to have a real conversation with you; without violence. Remember each partner deserves to be listened to and have their feelings respected.
- Remember the rules of engagement for healthy communication; be kind, use “I” statements and it’s not about being right, but doing what is right for your marriage. Start by softening your words and raise issues calmly. When couples start off with anger it’s almost impossible to return to relative calm. For example, if we think of your communication as a bell curve where we start calm, tempers may escalate, but are more likely to come back down to the initial tone; calm. This approach can help eliminate having contempt and feelings of personal attacks.