How To Communicate Better With Your Partner

 

Conflict Arises

Argument
OpenClips / Pixabay

What?  You don’t agree with me???

Sometimes knowing how to communicate better with our partners is not something that comes naturally to us. We all have those moments when we don’t agree with our partner, or they don’t agree with us.

 

But how we handle our differences can make ALL the difference in the world.

Conflict or “difference of opinion”, as I like to call it, are a regular occurrence I believe in any longer term relationship or pattern of relating between two or more people. Add to that differences in the following areas:

  • expectations
  • assumptions
  • addictive demands
  • different upbringings
  • cultures

And you set the stage for regular and frequent differences in perspective. What you do when this happens will make all the difference! What to do when a partner asks us about something, and we know we don’t share the same perspective or viewpoint? Or, what do you do when you promised your partner you would do something and you didn’t do it?

How It Starts!

Butting heads
PeterDargatz / Pixabay

Quite often we are asked about something that we either agreed to do, or that our partner expected us to do. And the moment they ask us about it we realize:

  • we forgot
  • we didn’t do it
  • we were too busy
  • we committed to something that we shouldn’t have
  • we said yes, but we really had no intention of following through

Agreements Will Make Or Break Your Level Of Trust

Trust
Dave175 / Pixabay

Our relationships are only as strong as the level of trust between both partners. And that level of trust comes from the promises that we make and keep. It shows that we are trustworthy and that our word counts for something.

Every promise that you break weakens your relationships ….. Always!

We Broke A Promise:  Now What?

Now What?
geralt / Pixabay

Your partner may know that you did not deliver on a promise. They may decide to ask you if you fulfilled your promise as a way of further testing your honesty. This is not recommended as it sets the stage for an eventual “grilling” and putting one’s partner on the defensive. It is basically setting up your partner. You are on the same side remember. If there is some information that you know of, then state it up front and give your partner the benefit of the doubt to answer you. There may very well be a good reason that they were unable to fulfill their promise to you. As you may at some point feel that you have a very valid reason for not being able to meet an obligation that your partner was relying on you for.

How we treat our partners in some way or another comes back to us

To Defend Or Not To Defend?

Making it worse
Nemo / Pixabay

Defending, is probably one of the worst things that I see on a regular basis that causes difficulties in couples!

When our partner comes to us with a problem or something that is bothering them, chances are that they have likely taken the time to consider whether or not they felt it was worthwhile to speak to us about this issue. They are likely wanting to be:

  • heard
  • understood
  • listened to
  • considered seriously
  • not have to justify how they feel
  • are seeking answers, not justification

However, what our partners and we often get is:

  • defensiveness
  • shutting down
  • anger
  • criticism
  • stonewalling
  • indifference

Is this what we were really hoping to create with the person that we wanted to spend the rest of our life with? And is this what we were hoping to get from them? Imagine if you got the same response from a customer service desk at a major retail store, that you typically give to your partner when they have a complaint or concern?

How long would you shop at this store?  How long would you expect your partner to shop at YOUR store with that kind of service???

Yes there are other “stores” out there!!!!

What To Do Differently:  Inquiry vs. Defensiveness!

When our partner asks us about something we can do the following to better communicate with them:

  • be open
  • friendly
  • concerned
  • give them our full attention
  • listen
  • listen…. yes, I know I just said it, but it is worth saying again
  • listen some more …. no that doesn’t mean waiting for them to stop talking so we can say what we want to say
  • ask questions to show we are interested and involved

And this is where “inquiry” comes in! Inquiry would have us be curious about what our partner is telling us. Realizing that they are not out to get us. Although sometimes it might feel that way. In those cases we can simply say that we are feeling attacked and ask them to change their tone or approach with us. Even better would be to tell our partner how to best approach us. Why make it a guessing game for them. That only leads to frustration on both sides.

A Different Result

When our partner comes to us with a genuine concern, and we can see that they are needing our help to resolve something that is important to us, hopefully we stop what we are doing, if that is feasible, and give them our full attention. Sensing that our partner is approaching us in a gentle, respectful, non-threatening way, we are hopefully able to let down our guard and feel safe. We can then feel comfortable and begin to ask questions and become curious as to how we may be able to help them to solve their problem. From this moment on we are beginning to respond to our partner from a new fresh and enlivening perspective called:  Inquiry.

Detective
OpenClips / Pixabay

It’s almost like being a “detective”. Being curious about things that our partner is telling us. Trusting them to know that what they are telling us is important to them. And they have come to us! Of all the people in the world to help them with their problem! Now doesn’t that make us feel special as opposed to under attack? Start “Inquiring” today and see the difference it can make in all of your relationships!

Inquiring couple
Nemo / Pixabay

Special Note

There may be times when you or your partner may want to just be “listened to” and not asked questions. You may want to help each other out by stating what you need from the other in this moment. On an ongoing basis, knowing whether your partner wants you to just listen to them is a master level course and possibly the subject of another article :)

But if you would like to learn more about communication, click HERE to find out about another tip that could come in handy!

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About Ron Lafleur

I am a counsellor in private practice specializing in couples therapy.

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