There are a number of other skills for couples that help preserve a marriage, a friendship, and even a co-worker’s loyalty. These include:
Knowing the right time and place for everything, including arguments. For example, don’t bring up the dirty clothes strewn all over the bedroom floor this morning as soon as your significant other comes in the door after a grueling day at work. How would you know it was a grueling day?
Do not argue in the heat of battle. In fact, don’t battle, because you know you will likely say things that can never be forgiven, even if the other person never brings them up again.
Make sure you have the other person’s attention. This can be as simple as eye contact, and as firm as asking that person to sit down and look at you while you explain something.
Frame all complaints and comments using the word “I”. Don’t say “You always leave you dirty clothes on the floor!” Instead say “I work late, and it’s no fun to wake up to a mess in the bedroom.” This simple reversal changes blame to need – the exact location from which to negotiate change.
Don’t sweep relationship issues under the carpet. There will come a time when you reach the breaking point, and every angry, hurtful thing you ever thought spews out of your mouth. If you can’t talk to your life partner about issues, why are you even in a relationship?
Keep the message simple – no more than three items at a time. These can be promises or problems, but it’s always best to keep the message short.
Repetition is key. The more often we hear something, the deeper it penetrates into that grey matter between our ears.
Another way to reinforce any communication is to have the other person repeat the essence of what we have said back to us. This can take the form of a verbal summary or a written one, and neither one has to sound like a kindergartner’s lesson.
Be truthful about your own needs without purposely being hurtful. If the other person is talking, learn to listen without interrupting or getting upset every time he/she says something that you would rather not hear.
If you can master these rules of communication with your husband/wife, life partner, or significant partner, you will be well on the road to an ideal partnership, which includes: being able to talk honestly about each other’s faults; being able to make each other laugh; agreeing to disagree; taking time away from each other without guilt or fear; and always having each other’s backs.
Christy Weller, Psy.D., Couples Counseling Boulder. I bring a genuine curiosity, a kind appreciation of where you have been, and a non-judgmental stance so that you feel comfortable exploring your story and making sense of it. I tailor my work to each client and I’m trained in both short-term and long-term therapies.