Whether it’s about finances, in-laws, or who does the dishes, most couples end up having areas in their relationship that become difficult to navigate.
If you and your partner find that you have communication problems, or a few “hot topics” that almost always ends up in an argument, here are a few tips to help you clear up those communication channels.
The magic of I statements
Using “I statements” can help you start the conversation in a way that allows your partner to hear and understand you, rather than defend him/herself. So, instead of coming at your partner with, “You never help out around the house! You are so lazy!” (which, by the way, is pretty tough to respond well to), you can try to help your partner understand how something is impacting you.
For example, “Sometimes, I feel like I am carrying the household responsibilities all alone and it gets overwhelming for me. I really need some help.” You talk about the same event, but by focusing on its impact on you, you create a situation where your partner can respond in a caring, supportive way.
Listen better with Reflective Listening
Another tool is known as reflective listening, where you repeat back to your partner what you hear him/her saying. We know this sounds redundant and unproductive, but this really does help ensure that you guys are on the same page and that what you’re hearing is what your partner is actually saying.
So, after your partner tells you something, check in with him/her by saying something like, “Okay, what I’m hearing you say is…(repeat back the content)…Is that right?” This way, you can make sure you are hearing your partner accurately, which helps him/her know that you’re really listening and trying to understand them.
Time-outs aren’t just for kids! If there are times when things still seem to get heated, you might agree to take a timeout as a couple. This is different from one of you getting fed up and just storming out of the room or leaving the situation.
In a negotiated timeout, you both agree to a certain amount of time (½ hour or however much time you each need) to take a break and think through some things, then come back and try to have the conversation without the anger that was building before. This can help give you a chance to “restart” or “redo” the conversation from a calmer, more collected place.
Don’t forget, RELATE can give you one of the best and most comprehensive evaluations of your current relationships, including specifically how your communication is helping or hurting your relationship!