Loving communication in Ellen’s marriage seemed a thing of the past. Now Ellen stood at the brink of divorce with her husband of eighteen years. She desperately did not want to break up their family, especially because of the implications for their three children. Ellen felt controlled by her husband, Ken, and that his needs invariably came first. He provided well for the family, but the emptiness she felt when with him had become too much to bear.
Ellen ached for someone she could talk to and be intimate with in a loving way.
Conflict and crisis creates an opening in which couples in committed relationships can choose to resolve their long standing issues or they can call it quits. Ellen felt like the children would suffer greatly from the potential break up and encouraged Ken to join her in marital therapy. Not until she threatened to leave did Ken finally agree.
Communication in a committed relationship can be challenging, especially when you throw in the stresses of everyday life. Sometimes learning and incorporating vital communication strategies can help couples navigate through this difficult process.
10 Keys to Improving Communication with Your Partner
- Listen. Listen. Listen. Listening is one of the most powerful steps you can take to become a better communicator and understand your partner more deeply. Most of us assume we know what the other will say, when we might be way off base. Your partner will feel cared for and less defensive if he/she feels truly heard.
- Reframe what your partner shares with you to make sure that you understand the message and are not putting your own twist on what you think has been said.
- Learn to tolerate your strong emotional responses, by practicing some breathing techniques or reminding yourself to stay calm and be in the moment. Learn some ways of relaxing so that you can incorporate those skills when conversations become heated.
- Be compassionate. Think about the way you are saying things to your partner. Are you speaking in a manner that is respectful and that is likely to encourage communication? Communication is always a two-way street.
- Bring your authentic self to the dialogue. Couples know when the other is being false and it breaks the communication down quickly.
- Be flexible in the way you receive information from your partner and be willing to try different ways of doing things.
- Plan weekly time together for conversation and intimacy. No pressure to perform, just get in the habit of spending time with each other without children or electronics interfering. You may need outside support to make this happen.
- Resolve conflicts fairly. No one wins unless both partners feel like they were treated fairly and got some of what they needed.
- Forgive the transgressions and mistakes of your partner. The research shows that forgiveness is best for the health and well-being of the person doing the forgiving. Even when a situation cannot be resolved, it is good to forgive so that you can move on.
- Schedule activities together that are fun and that encourage laughter. Remember what brought you together and build on the strengths of the relationship. It is also good to spend time with other couples that have healthy relationships and learn from their behaviors.
Ellen and Ken decided to do whatever they could to salvage their marriage. It continues to be a work in progress. They have agreed to consciously make the time and practice these communication strategies.
What do you think helps to strengthen a marriage or committed relationship?