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Effective Communication for Couples 101

Sometimes couples say they are frustrated because they are not communicating. To that I say, “You ARE communicating – you’re just not doing it effectively.” There are a lot of moving parts to communication, but for today, I just want to cover some basics.

  1. Be nice.
    Human beings generally don’t like listening to a laundry list of everything they are doing that annoys you. They are funny that way. You are much more likely to be heard, and to have your requests met in a positive way if you are sweet. Tell your partner what you love about him/her. Call him/her sweet pet names. Act like you actually like him/her and are glad to see him/her at the end of the day. So, just to be clear, do not turn purple, yell until the veins in your head pop out, and spit ink. This is not effective communication, because it does not make the other person want to hear what you have to say – it makes him/her want to get on the first Harley and head west.
  2. Decide ahead of time on a mutually agreed upon method for stopping a conversation if it becomes too heated, and resuming it at a later time.
    This way, you can calm down and let your cooler, more rational, less impulsive self prevail. It is important that both of you agree on how you will ramp things down, so that one person does not just walk away, leaving the other person feeling abandoned and even more upset. An example of a way of stopping and starting a conversation would be to say something like “Sweetheart, I am too upset to be able to really discuss this in a good way, and I need some time to calm down. Let’s talk about this tomorrow after dinner.” If you can, say I love you and hug to let everyone feel some safety in the middle of a difficult subject. It is important to be very specific about when you will resume the conversation. Don’t just say “later” – your partner needs to agree to the time.
  3. Do not attempt to come to a solution with every conversation you have.
    This does not mean your communication has failed. Many things take time to be resolved. Allow yourself to have all the time it takes. It is better to live with the tension of an unresolved issue than to get too upset, and resort to screaming and calling your partner names. Learn when you need to call time out, and stick to the agreed upon way of doing it.
  4. Be clear in yourself about what you are trying to communicate.
    It is not up to your partner to “just know.

And sometimes, you might need to take a break from communicating, and just relax and have some fun – together if at all possible, and individually if not.