Every relationship has its ups and downs. Even the strongest partnerships experience a few rough patches, but it’s how you cope when the going gets tough that's the most important thing. The current COVID-19 pandemic has placed an additional strain on many relationships, affecting home life, finances, child care, and more. But if you focus on what’s right in your relationship, and keep an open line of communication, then you have what it takes to stay together.
Communication is key to resolving the majority of issues in a partnership. Half the battle is first to identify any issue. Once you’ve done that, you and your partner can discuss the matter calmly and rationally and reach a mutually acceptable solution. Often the problem itself isn’t the problem - it’s the lack of communication that's the issue!
If you’re committed to keeping your relationship rock-solid and secure, read on for practical advice, tips, and strategies on how to communicate problems to restore the focus on your partnership.
Trust, reassurance, and honesty are the cornerstone of any relationship, and if you have those, you can be upfront about any problems. It’s important to state how you feel and not to skirt around what you’re thinking. Often, the simple act of being upfront about a problem will solve it there and then because the other party didn’t realize that their behavior was an issue.
One other tip - remember, it’s not just what you say, but how you say it. Raise any concerns gently and considerately, not angrily and confrontationally.
There’s an old quote that says, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” We all know people who could benefit from taking that advice on board, but it often applies to our relationships.
There’s a big difference between really hearing someone and listening to them. When we listen, we understand, empathize, and learn so much more. People with good listening skills are rare, and the value of a good listener is hugely underrated. But the good news is that listening is an easy skill to learn - just say to yourself, “This time, I’m going to listen to what the other person has to say. I’m consciously going to think about listening, and I’m not going to interrupt, respond, or react to any provocation.”
You might be surprised by how powerful and effective this technique is. What’s more, once you’ve mastered it, you’ll find that people will listen to you more, too.
If someone’s giving you a critique of your behavior, you have two options: you can respond, or you can react. There’s a subtle but essential difference between these two forms of behavior. When you react, it’s often with a counter-accusation or a hasty comment that you might later regret. Such statements can often escalate or exacerbate the issue.
But when you respond, it shows that you’ve taken the other person’s point of view. When your partner says, “You never say you love me,” you can react with a curt “neither do you,”… or you can respond with “I know. I feel the same. How do we change things?”
Language matters, and here’s a small change that can make a massive difference. Instead of using accusative, finger-pointing words - “you did this, you didn’t do that” - try starting your sentences with “we” or “I.”
The effect this small change can have is truly amazing. Suddenly you’re expressing your true feelings and taking a collaborative approach that shows that the issue is on both sides. Note the difference between “You’re always arguing, and you never listen” and “I hate it when we argue and wish we could do something about it together.”
Compromising isn’t the same as giving in, although, on occasion, it can feel that way. Every relationship is about giving and taking, accepting that fact, and moving forward on that basis. Sometimes you may have to compromise a little more, sometimes it’s less: but everything balances out in the end.
The solution to most problems is a compromise, so be open to the idea, and search for acceptable solutions for both you and your partner. Instead of trying to win the argument, focus on winning a compromise. The winning feeling of a compromise is just as good!
If your relationship is troubled or on the rocks, consider seeking help from a neutral third party. That can be a trusted friend or family member who can see both sides of the argument and who won’t judge. Often in a fight, couples can’t see the forest for the trees - whereas an impartial observer can suggest an obvious solution.
You can also seek professional help, whether in the form of counseling or turning to reliable aids such as mediation to improve your communication. If you're going through a divorce or separation but want to maintain a friendly relationship with your ex for the sake of your kids, mediation’s a great idea. The services of a professional mediator or family lawyer can be of great benefit to all concerned.
Practice makes perfect. The strongest couples know that, and they also realize that relationships evolve. What worked when you were young and had no children might not work now that you’re older and have a family.
If you and your partner have a dog or cat, you’ll know that it takes constant care, nurture, and attention for your pet to thrive. Well, relationships are a bit like that - with good communication skills also an essential element!
Speak to couples who’ve been happily married for many years, and they’ll tell you that good communication skills are a vital element of their success. Learn to listen, speak with clarity and honesty, talk calmly and respectfully, choose your words carefully, and be prepared to compromise. When you follow those steps, you’ll be surprised by how easy it is to restore a positive focus in your relationship.