As my practice developed, the issue of communicating better was a hot topic, however I have come to realize a major distinction. The distinction is that couples can communicate quite well, however many had trouble communicating one thing in specific, their emotions.
I make this distinction because its important to point out how difficult it can be for all of us, even great communicators, to discuss our vulnerabilities and emotions. My integrated approach to working with couples is emotion focused for this reason. I help them to make minor emotional refinements in the ways they interact, that ultimately make a big difference long term.
Many of my couples are amazed at how easy these communication adjustments are and the impact it makes on their level of intimacy. Couples often present with gridlock issues and defensiveness, which closes off their ability to attune and really listen to their partners, most often because they don't feel heard either.
Active listening and learning how to complain without blaming is a two step process that really helps.
Active listening is the process of repeating back exactly what your partner says. Its a simple, yet advanced way of communicating because it impacts so much of the couples ability to feel heard, validated, and secure. Active listening promotes a reduction in your partners anxious and emotional state immediately.
Basically, instead of finding solutions or giving advice, the new solution is to actively listen and self soothe your partner. Solutions don't often work with couples and both get stuck in trying to manage the others emotional state because they don't want them to be upset, naturally.
However solutions other than actively listening promotes more anxiousness. Many of my couples often say "I'm not looking for advice or solutions, I'm looking for understanding - not agreement from my partner."
So try active listening out and you'll notice the difference.
The other tip, which is complaining without blaming, actually prohibits attacking or criticism.
Starting off with your feelings rather than pointing the finger or using the word "you always or you never" is best.
For example you could start with this formula:
I feel ------ when you --- and it would make a difference if ------- (tell your partner what you want here, not what you don't want). Fill in the blanks.
This can get more complicated depending on the sensitivity of the topic, which is why many couples come in to see me at the practice, as the emotional content is difficult at times.
The framework for this work is set up with the goal of understanding each other. Its not about agreeing or disagreeing or right and wrong. For this work to really make a difference both partners understand that there are always two realties or two truths in each partnership and that their feelings are based on their individual perspectives.
Having tolerance for difference is an important part of this process, however, most importantly its about setting the intention to listen differently while managing defensiveness. In this process you are taking the word "should" out of your vocabulary, and instead actively listening, even if you don't agree. Couples stay married because they try to understand their partners, even when they are not seeing eye to eye.
Hope these tips is helpful! T
Tips by Dr. John Gottman's research on happily married couples.
For more information on tips to help your relationship go to www.couplesseekingsolutions.com or call anytime for consultation.