Relationships can require a lot of work, there is no sugarcoating that. However, people tend to view relationships as harder than they need to be, especially when they’ve been stuck in a negative pattern or a “rut” for a while. Here are a few tips and strategies to help you & your partner start building a stronger and healthier relationship.
1. Give Each Other a Space to Feel Heard
I know it may not seem like much and you may think this is something you already do, but actively thinking about what your partner is talking about and listening to them to understand, instead of to respond, is important in having good communication. Make sure you’re not interrupting one another and letting the other finish their whole thought before speaking. Just feeling like your partner understands you and hears you can make a world of difference.
2. Practice Reflective Listening
As mentioned previously, when your partner is speaking, a lot of the time you may be thinking about what you want to say next instead of actually hearing and understanding what they are saying. Having them speak and then you responding with, “I hear you saying….. Is that correct?” is a good way to make sure you and your partner are on the same page and not misinterpreting what the other is trying to say. Most of the time communication gets lost and often leads to conflict due to a simple misunderstanding. Reflecting back on what your partner said is an easy way to avoid that.
3. Take a Break When Necessary (But Come Back)
When you and your partners’ emotions are elevated and you feel like you get to the point where you are just arguing to win, take a step back and take a breather. Give yourselves anywhere from 5-30 minutes to de-escalate your emotions and come back to the conversation when you’re both able to speak more productively. The key here is to come back to the conversation and not to just move on without addressing it. Allow each of you to take some time to reflect, so that you are better able to come back and come to a resolution together.
4. Show Appreciation & Support to One Another in a Way that They Need
Oftentimes, we think we are showing our partner appreciation for what they do, but it may not be received well by them. Part of that could be because they are not feeling the appreciation in a way that they need to. The way you like to feel loved and appreciated may not be a reflection of how your partner does, so putting effort into asking them what they need or would like in order to feel appreciated is a simple way to make sure you are supporting one another in the best way possible during stressful times.
Emily Blair, ALMFT