Relationships are hard. Take the people involved, their baggage, their insecurities, a culture that indicates that it should be a piece of cake and what you get is a mix that makes it challenging to talk about difficult subjects with your partner. If you can’t effectively talk to your partner or resolve conflict it can seem as if the one person who should always be in your corner isn’t there to support or appreciate you.
Here are some tips I have found help to help you get past some of the barriers to hopefully start towards the pathway of open & clear communication:
1. Take time outs. If one of you is upset, needs time to process or calm down have a set code word either one of you can say at anytime to take a break. This is not something to create or talk about in the heat of the moment. Instead when there is no arguments or negative emotions talk about what a time out would look like for both of you. I suggest you choose a short (two syllables max) word that you both can easily remember, if it is humorous even better! You can also set a time limit for the time out or not, whatever you and your partner agree upon before actually using this method. Once a partner engages the word all communication stops and each person takes a breather. This is not something to use to just “skip” the conversation. Part of the agreement to allow time outs is that you must pick the conversation back up. It might seem ineffective to “stop” communication to actually improve it but this can not only prevent you from saying something hurtful in the heat of the moment but also give you (or your partner) time to actually think through and fully understand the situation. People react with either fight or flight in tense situations and time outs can help de-escalate the situation so you both can actually work on the problem not just “survive” the moment.
2. If something is bothering you instead of complaining ask for what you want! I blame society for instilling this idea that the perfect partner will be able to read your mind and just know what to do. Sorry to burst your bubble but it is NEVER going to happen and playing the “you should just know” game or retreating and acting passive-aggressive is not going to help fix the problem. SIt down with your partner and don’t focus on what is going wrong instead focus on the solution and how they can be apart of it! Have concrete examples and ideals. You can’t read minds and either can your partner! For example if you are feeling under-appreciated, instead of complaining ask your partner to give you positive feedback at least once a day, and provide examples of what positive feed back looks like to you. Be concrete. Provide Clear Examples and make sure to follow #3 when they do it….
3.Give feedback and praise. If you see any sort of improvement praise, praise, praise. It can be difficult trying new things. It can be hard to open up and be honest, especially if there has been pain and mistakes along the way. Giving encouragement and in a way guidance can foster a positive environment for growth for not only your partner but also yourself. The one mistake I see with this tip is backhanded praising/insults…so if you asked for a compliment daily when your partner says “that was a good dinner you cooked” make sure to say “thank you that means a lot” instead of “thank you too bad I also had to do the dishes”…this only can hurt your partner and does nothing to create a positive place in your relationship. It takes time to grow and learn and it is unfair of us to expect our partners to become perfect overnight.
It is difficult to hear couple’s come in for therapy and state that one, or both, have been unhappy for years. Poor communication can make small things become big, hurtful subjects it also can prevent a couple from creating healthy conflict resolutions. Poor communication is one of the top reasons Couple’s come into therapy and if you and your partner are having problems feel free to email us or call. We also recommend you check out these books: