Stop judging and criticizing him/her.
That is probably the most powerful, and the most difficult thing to do. Unfortunately, we live in a very judgmental climate. We may not even realize when we are criticizing or judging. We might think we are “communicating” and “being honest”. Weeeell, maybe not. If you can do this one thing, your life will change, and your partner will be one of the luckiest people on the planet.
Focus on the positive.
This is the other side of not criticizing. If you stop criticizing, you might suddenly find yourself with nothing to say! If your partner is a 500-pound drug addict with $300,000 in student loans, perhaps you can tell him/her that you really love the brownies (s)he made. 😉 You appreciate his/her sense of humor. Her eyes are a beautiful shade of blue. He smells nice. You can always find something to say that’s positive. It just takes more effort than pointing out the negative.
Show him/her your underbelly.
When a cat feels safe, she will roll over and expose her belly. By showing your partner your own vulnerability, you are letting him/her know that you trust him/her. Trust begets trust. By the way, I am not talking about complaining, whining, or extreme neediness. Just share your true feelings…period. Don’t try to control the situation or your partner. Instead of “I just told you something very important. Now you’re supposed to say/do xyz”, just say “Thanks for listening, or thanks for the hug. I really appreciate it.”
Leave the past alone.
Do not throw past mistakes back in your partner’s face in the middle of a fight.
Do not tell your partner that (s)he is just like his/her horrible mother. Do not call your partner names. Do not threaten to divorce your partner.
And do it with sincerity. Don’t make excuses. That way your partner will know you understand that you crossed the line.
These practices will take practice. They are not easy. Forgive yourself when you mess up and try again.