When we’re fighting with our partner life doesn’t feel very good. Yet, often times the solutions to our problems are rather simple. If you feel distant from your partner, or just want to CREATE MORE CONNECTION there two simple tips I want to share with you.
In my work as a marriage counselor my job is to teach people how to create connectedness. Almost all problems in marriages are due to feelings of not being heard and understood. When we feel Love we feel accepted, heard, supported, and valued. Yet most people don’t know what it takes to assure that they have intimacy in their relationship. Issues like parenting, money, and sex can create a big gap in our ability to feel close to our partner. In my experience I have learned that almost all issues can be resolved in the same way.
Practically all issues have the same remedy. Just like different trees bear different fruits, all trees have practically the same needs. Healthy dirt, enough water, and some sunlight. The same goes for a marriage.
The remedy in a marriage of course is better communication. One hundred percent of my clients say that the success of a marriage is dependent on communication. I agree with them. It’s just most of us don’t know what good communication looks like. Most of us forget that everything that we do communicates a message to our partner. Even in small situations where we don’t think that it affects our partner whether or not we respond to them, it does.
In fact in the work of marriage research they have found that when our partner says something like, “look at those clouds” they are actually making small bids for attentions. These bids, when not noticed and reciprocated create small problems. And it seems like all problems are really caused by small things. Small talk is a big piece of intimacy. Communication is something we’re always doing, so to know how to communicate interest in our partner is not always so appearant.
Yesterday I met with a couple who entered my office, when I asked how they were doing they said ‘good.’ Not true, I haven’t met many couples who enter my office and are doing good. As we talked the husband said that he was ready to end his relationship. Now for someone inexperienced this could be a big deal, but I know that many times people say things like this but deep down there is something else going on. This goes back to the roots and the fruits of trees. The fruit is he is not satisfied with his relationship. After about 20 minutes we found that the root of the problem for him is; His wife treats him like a child (she is ten years older than him) and she is constantly demanding that he help out around the house.
Now since there are always two sides let’s go to her. She said she was tired of being with a boy, with a third child. This is a complaint that many upon many wives have. Yet, again somehow this also relates to the fruit and the roots. This fruit is the issue about being helped, but the real issue is that she does not feel supported by her husband. That is why she demands. Now to the root of the problem. The husband does not want to help because she demands. He doesn’t help, she demands, and they don’t listen to each other, and they don’t understand each other.
Once they began to listen to each other without defending themselves guess what happened? They cried, they laughed and hugged. Then we talked about the facts of relationships. Did you know that 80% of the complaints of a relationship come from the wife? Yup, and that the solution to this has two parts: the wife needs to learn how to ask in a gentle way for what she wants, and the husband needs to learn how to accept her influence. The way to implement this, in my experience, is always the same: the couple learn how to listen properly, learn how to communicate with each other in a way that says, “I love you, I want to hear your feelings and thoughts about this issue.”
Notice that I said nothing about actually solving the issue. I did not say to the husband, “you need to help more” and I did not say to the wife, “talk nicer.” I did not focus on the fruit of the problem. I focused on the root–which is listening.
When in session getting to the solution of a problem is the least of my concerns. Working on positive listening techniques is what makes 99% of the solution. Once the couple understands each other, and communicates effectively that “I have understood” and the other partner says, “YES! You do understand me” that is when the solution comes.
So, how do we communicate, “I want to understand you. I want to hear your feelings. I am interested in solving this issue?” It’s simple. Follow these two steps:
1-Repeat what your partner says.
We can do this by using statements like: “I heard that….” “I understand that…” Then just repeat what you heard, in your own words or theirs.
2- Ask questions.
Good questions are: “I want to know more about this.” “I hear that this really frustrates you, can you tell me more about what you’re feeling.” The great part about asking questions, is that if we are genuinely interested the question can be as simple as, “I want to understand, can you tell me more about what you think.”
Using these two steps to resolve major issues can be challenging for two reasons; We want to include our opinion before we understand our partner, and often times we are in a hurry to solve the issue. The solution is not in the specifics of the problem. The solution arises when we listen, repeat what is heard, and ask questions.
I hope this helps you in your journey to creating connectedness, inter-dependance, and more love in your relationship.
Until next time. If you found this helpful feel free to leave me a comment. And if you want a private session email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the title as “private session.”