There is no secret formula for relationship success. But there is a not-so-secret foundation for relationship satisfaction: communication.
Developing healthy communication is an ongoing, never-ending process. It is also the closest thing we have to a universal truth for couples.
Healthy Communication is Reality-Based
Contrary to pop culture myths, even the happiest couples disagree and argue. The answer is not focusing on this fact. Rather, we need to examine how we interact and why. From there, we can grow and learn from even the most uncomfortable arguments.
John Gottman is a noted and well-respected psychological researcher. His research indicates “relationship success is not dependent on whether couples argue not rather how they argue. “He believes, conflicts are “unavoidable in an intimate relationship and if they are handled well can contribute to growth rather than tension.”
In everyday life, this translates into acceptance and openness. We accept that even “soul mates” don’t always see eye to eye. We remain open to exploring this reality and learning how it can help us improve individually and as a couple.
10 Expert Tips For Better Couples Communication
1. Active Listening
We can and must listen with all our senses — and must make it clear we are doing so. From body language to facial gestures to verbal affirmations, we let our partner know we are hearing them.
2. Avoid Personal Attacks, Blame, and Criticism
It’s important to bring up issues that are bothering you. But this must be done gently and without blame. The goal is finding a resolution, not declaring a winner.
3. Try to Understand First Before Trying to Be Understood
In every disagreement, there’s a point where you feel you’re not being heard or understood. This is a good time to ask questions — in the name of understanding your partner’s point first!
4. Use “I” Statements
Rather than, “You always make me feel like ___,” try: “When you do that, I feel like this.” The concept of blame has been removed and you’ve shared in a vulnerable way.
5. Accept Influence From the Other
One of the least appreciated aspects of a disagreement is that it is a teaching moment. If your partner has a differing opinion, you can learn from it!
6. Share Appreciations
Do not choose black and white thinking. No matter how uncomfortable the current conflict is, it doesn’t change how much you love and appreciate your partner.
7. Learn How to Apologize
A big part of resolution involves forgiveness and apology. A proper apology occurs when you take responsibility, show remorse, and take steps to not do it again.
8. Use Humor
Feel out the situation and see where you can gently lighten the mood.
9. Practice Patience
In very rare instances, a conflict is so urgent that it must be settled ASAP. In most cases, you can and should take a break to cool off and contemplate. Social media has taught us to “flame” each other but that is an unproductive and immature form of interaction.
10. Acknowledge Common Ground
Almost every difference of opinion includes grey areas. Seek them out, explore this common ground, and use it to ease tensions.
Find a Couples Therapist
Better couples communication is a skill. As with learning any other skill, it helps to have a mentor. What better coach than a couples therapist who is an expert in communication. Important skills, by definition, are tough to learn and even tougher to maintain. The improvement lies in the commitment and a willingness to learn.
When partners commit to attending couples counseling, you are also committing to each other. Your love is not being questioned. However, your compatibility may need a fresh, new approach. Please reach out for a consultation soon. As your couples therapist and communication mentor, I can help guide this crucial, bonding process.