By Lynda Stockwell M.S.W., R.S.W.
Communication issues arise regularly as the “identified problem” in couple therapy. Here’s some habits that can contribute positively to the longevity of your relationship.
- Pay Attention:
At the beginning of a relationship, we are generally highly attentive to our partners. We notice details – body language, mood, and we also listen to what our partners are saying to us with great interest. Often, as a relationship matures, we stop paying so much attention. Naturally, we are out of the “getting to know you” stage, and as such, the pursuit of knowing declines.
If you truly want to improve the quality of your relationship, you need to go back to the ‘getting to know you’ attitude. Show some of the same curiosity and the desire to know that you did at an earlier time in the relationship. Each of us is constantly evolving and growing, so “getting to know” one another should continue throughout your relationship.
- Really Listen:
Psychologist George A. Miller said, “To understand what another person is saying, you must assume that it is true and try to imagine what it could be true of.” Rather than to dispute or dismiss your partner’s words, which is most often an expression of your own defensiveness, try to understand why these words might be true for them. What does this mean to them? This approach will go a long way toward your understanding of your partner, it helps you to avoid conflict and it gives your partner the feeling of really being heard, addressing one of the top complaints I hear in therapy.
- Don’t Judge or Personalize:
Do not tell your partner that his or her feelings are wrong, even if you do not see things the same way. This is the fastest way to close down a dialogue, and build hurt, anger and resentment. Instead, set about trying to understand how your partner came to have the feelings they do about the situation. Do not take them personally, even if they are about you. Your partner’s feelings belong to them, and in order to best understand those feelings, you need to take a step back from them – show curiosity about how these feelings developed, what their meaning is to your partner, and then, only when you truly understand the meaning, should you share the impact of those words on you.
- Think About Intentionality:
What differentiates a ‘good’ relationship from a ‘bad’ one often revolves around the assignment of intentionality. If you go into any discussion with the assumption that your partner does not intend to hurt you or make you feel badly, then you can balance what you hear from them more easily. When your partner shares with you feelings that you don’t “like” or agree with, or expresses a request for change, you can respond much more positively if you remind yourself that he or she loves you, and in that love has no intention of hurt you. This can help you to think about what might be going on for them, instead of getting lost in your own “hurt” feelings. If you cannot make this very basic assumption in your relationship, then the relationship is indeed in very big trouble.
Hopefully, one or all of these tips will help to make your relationship more harmonious and satisfying.
At the Aquility Centre we offer couple’s therapy and counseling. Call today for a free consultation with one of your professionals. Please read our Bios page to select a practitioner who can suit your needs: www.aquility.ca/about-us