Relationships are easy at the beginning. Both of you are enthralled with each other; waiting for the next time you will get together. But as time goes on, that initial excitement wanes…this is normal. Having said that, how do couples keep the interest and spark alive? Communicate, communicate, and yes, communicate.
Almost everyone who calls my office seeking couples counseling will tell me on the phone that their biggest struggle is ‘communication’. Unfortunately, many of us don’t learn how to communicate effectively as children. So, if you feel like you simply ‘don’t understand’ your partner, it is possible the two of you are not communicating effectively.
Here are some basic tips to keep in mind when having any type of conversation with your significant other, but especially if you are addressing a sensitive issue…
- Start with a positive statement. (For instance, “I really appreciate all that you do for me and the kids.”)
- Add to that…”At the same time, I am concerned about_________________.” Make sure you fill in the blank with an issue not a criticism of your partner; such as “I am concerned about the lack of time we have together” instead of “You don’t spend enough time with me.”
- Start all your sentences with “I” so for example, “I feel frustrated lately” instead of “I think you are ignoring me.”
- Remember no one can ‘make you feel’ something. Instead, you may have a reaction to a behavior your partner engages in. Do not give anyone the power to create an emotion in you. You are responsible for your feelings, reactions, responses and behavior-now and always. You always have power over your responses to others but never have power over another person’s behavior.
- Notice the words ‘always’ and ‘never’ in number 4 above…I used them intentionally. Most of the time though, those words do not work in relationships. Drop any words that suggest something is absolute, such as ‘always’ and ‘never’.
- Remind yourself why you originally chose to enter into the relationship you have with your partner. What attracted you to him or her? Those qualities are still present, although maybe hidden behind other behaviors.
- Do not ‘hit below the belt’. In other words, choose your words carefully and do not bring up a topic or circumstance that you know will hurt your partner. If he or she has shared something personal with you, those topics should be off limits during an argument or heated discussion.
- No Name Calling! That is self-explanatory!
By following the above rules on a regular basis (not just sometimes), you should start feeling more understood, respected, and heard by your partner. Good luck and reach out if you need guidance…