Communication because love alone is not enough

Couple who thinksI often tell my couples who come to me for Marriage Preparation that ‘love’ alone cannot make the relationship last. The couple also needs to be able to communicate well, especially in times of difficulty.

Have you ever found yourself in a heated conversation with your partner and didn’t know what to do or say? Consider these communication tips to help get you through next time:

Tip 1. Be solution focused not problem focus – Rehashing the problem repeatedly is likely to lead to blame and frustration. Instead, aim to move forward by saying what you would have liked to have seen instead. For instance, instead of “you are always running late” try “It is important for me that we are on time”.

Not one single person has to be responsible for ‘fixing’ the problem, rather taking the perspective that you can both contribute towards a solution. Stick to the topic at hand, try not to bridge problems as it may confuse the situation.

Tip 2. Listen actively – Keep focused, maintain eye contact and avoid distractions (thank you iPhones), this is one of the few times that multi-tasking will not be praised. Understand that listening and hearing are not the same. When you are listening you offer your full attention and this in turn makes your partner feel important and validated.

The location and timing of when to have a difficult conversations is also crucial, pick a time when you know you won’t get interrupted and there aren’t other priorities demanding your attention elsewhere.

Tip 3. Take note of the non-verbals – Focusing on words in isolation is getting the job half right. Take note of the body language and check to see that the message is consistent. Try to be aware of their emotions as well as your own. Remember it doesn’t matter what you intended to say or mean, as they are going to react to what they believe they heard.

Tip 4. Use “I statements” – Avoid statements starting with “you” and reword to start with “I…am/think/feel/want)”. For example, “you don’t make any sense” versus “I am confused as to what you want”. Typically, ‘You statements’ have an accusation tone which raises defensiveness whereas ‘I statements’ come from a more assertive approach.

Tip 5. Call for time out if needed – Not every problem can be resolved in the moment. Take a breather to calm down and contemplate what has been said. Verbalise your reason for needing the break so they are aware you are not just walking away.

Despite being social human beings, communication isn’t easy for everyone. In fact, it takes skill and practice to become an effective communicator. The good news is that anyone can learn to improve the way they communicate and there are lots of strategies available to help. Relationships4Life is a relationship service which can assist you and your partner to build a stronger connection, starting with becoming better communicators.

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