Are you feeling unhappy in your relationship with your partner? Are you wondering if the relationship will ever get back to how it used to be? Is the word “divorce” or are thoughts of separation coming up?
Usually unhappiness in relationships come from unhealthy patterns of communication. Check out this blog post if you want to learn more about 4 critical unhealthy patterns that contribute to unhappiness in relationships.
Now that you know the characteristics of an unhealthy relationship, I want to give you some practical tools you can start utilizing today to start improving those communication patterns.
You’re probably rolling your eyes right now…Hear me out. Learning to use “I-statement” can help change the tone of any conversation. The use of “I-statements” communicates ownership of your feelings and emotions. This tells the other person that you are not blaming them for the problem and you are actually owning the problem. This is a strategy I use when communication is beginning to become confrontational. It is bulletproof in reducing defensiveness in the other person. If you are not able to get out of “defensiveness” you are not going to be able to solve the conflicts in your relationships.
If you’ve tried using “I-statements” I the past and they have not worked, I believe that you may not be using them correctly. Although the use of “I-statements” is a simple concept to understand, learning when to use them, and getting the words right are super important for this to be an effective tool. It takes practice and it takes getting feedback to know if you are using this tool correctly.
Tool #2—Practice Owning Your Part
Building on my last point—to begin building better patterns of communication, It is important to be intentional about distributing ownership of the problem. There is usually something we can take ownership of in any conversation. Think about the last argument you had with your partner. Think about why that conversation went wrong. Now here comes the hard part… What part can you own? What are you responsible for in that bad outcome? What part does your partner own? What are they responsible for? Once you’ve been able to determine these (also known as distributing the ownership), it is crucial to only focus on your part! That’s the only way of taking true responsibility. Refrain from pointing out what your partner did wrong. Doing this even if you are successful at owning your part will do you no good.
The hardest part about owing your part is that it feels like by taking responsibility for the problem, you are admitting being 100% at fault. Know that you are not doing that. You are simply owning YOUR part. You are 100% responsible and at fault for YOUR part—not the entire part of the conversation. It may feel like you are taking the heat for everything, but you are not. That is our ego feeling like we “need to be right”. Try to look at the bigger picture here. By taking ownership you are creating a new pattern of communication with your partner. By taking ownership more often, you are going to be making it easier for your partner to take ownership of their fault as well. This will get you one step closer to finding quicker solutions to deal with the conflict at hand.
Tool #3—Take A Break!
Sometimes in challenging conversations you need to take a break before the issue is resolved. Sometimes you need to take many breaks. Changing communication patterns can be mentally and emotionally draining. Give the conversation the respect it needs by monitoring your emotional reactions and mental capacity to have the conversation. If you need to take 10 minutes, 30 minutes, heck maybe even 24-hours to refocus your thoughts, get in control of your emotions—then so be it. Accept the fact that change doesn’t always happen overnight so it’s important to be patient and have these conversations when you are mentally and emotionally ready to.
Tool #4—Know Your Enemy!
Your partner is not your problem. I’m going to repeat that sentence, so please take notes… Your partner is not your problem. Your problem is the unhealthy communication between you and your partner. I assume that you are reading this because you want to find a solution to work things out with your partner. If that is the case, then you have to find a new enemy. You’re not going to resolve anything by blaming your partner. Your partner is not going change if they are feeling attacked or blamed. Instead accept that you want this relationship to work, and for that to happen you have to stop seeing your partner as the “bad guy”.
Take a moment to answer this question… Why are you with your partner? Is it their looks, are they a good mother/wife/father/husband? Do they share your values? Do you like their personality? Whatever that reason is you come up with, it’s important to remember it, repeat it to yourself, write it down somewhere where you can see it. Re-commit to working with your partner not against them.
Tool #5—Don’t Stop Talking!
Relationships are about communication. You cannot give up on talking to each other. If you want to be in a relationship, you have to accept the good with the bad. You are engaging and interacting with another human being. A person who has a different upbringing than you do, a different perspective, different thoughts, different emotions. The inability to manage those differences is part of why communication breaks down. At the same time, when we learn to manage those differences it creates an experience that can be magical!!!
Communication will never be perfect. That is okay, because perfection is not the goal. The goal is to work on the breakdowns of communication together and to continue working on them over and over again. Eventually you will start noticing better, smoother, easier conversations between you and your partner.
Remember that communication with another person can be life-long work. Just because you don’t communicate well with your partner does not mean you are not meant to be together. It just means that you are needing to make some changes in your communication patterns. This is totally manageable and normal. Having great communication with your partner is a commitment that will pay-off exponentially!
Here are 2 resources that will help you learn more about improving communication:
- Crucual Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler
- Vital Smarts is a website with good resources to mini-courses and content and healthy communication. Some of the content may require payment, but I recommend it.