Relationships — no matter how deep the love — are difficult. Just as we matured and evolved from our teen to early adult years, we keep growing. Life’s experiences — joyful, sorrowful and challenging — affect our personalities, our outlooks and our hopes and dreams. As we grow older, we can’t help but change. That means our relationships do, too. And that means they require care, time and a willingness to walk in the other’s shoes, to see the world through their eyes, to understand their perspective. One of the key elements in healthy, thriving relationships, psychologists and marriage experts say, is understanding each other. We all want to be heard, to be appreciated for who we are.
Here are five simple ways to help you to understand your partner as well as improve your communication and connection with each other.
Be Present In The Moment
When disagreements occur, focus on the present. In other words, be there. Listen actively to what your partner is saying without letting your thoughts and feelings creep in. Allow yourself to really hear him or her. If you’re already formulating your responses while your partner is talking, then you’re not really listening. This same idea applies to any conversation you may have with your partner, not just the difficult ones.
Choose The Right Words
Effectively delivering your message begins with picking and choosing the right words to say. Use “I” rather than “you” when trying to communicate your feelings. By saying, “I felt sad when you didn’t call me . . . ” rather than “You always ignore me when . . . ” leaves room for conversation and space to meet in the middle. It isn’t accusatory and it doesn’t create feelings of defensiveness. Assumptions many times lead to misunderstandings which you should make a conscious effort to avoid at all costs.
Own Up to Your Mistakes
Take responsibility for your own actions and emotions. If your stress or frustration elicits negative responses or creates tense situations, acknowledge the fact. Be accountable to yourself and to your partner. We sometimes feel that saying “I’m sorry” or explaining that we aren’t at our best is a sign of failure. But it’s really a sign of strength and self-confidence in the relationship, that we will love each other despite our imperfections.
Keep discussions about an issue brief and concise. Don’t bring additional baggage into the conversation as that can tumbleweed into a much larger ordeal. Focus on one point, keep voices calm and then move on. Bringing up too much or extending the time spent discussing the conflict at hand only stirs the pot and prevents reaching a clear solution to the problem.
Make Time for Each Other
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to improve your understanding of one another is to ensure you set aside time each week just for the two of you. Take turns choosing the date or activity — and be positive about whatever they select, even if that wouldn’t be your first choice. Being willing to do something for your partner, even when it’s not part of your interests, shows you understand what is fulfilling and important to your partner. And, you never know, you might end up enjoying it more than you expected!
So, keeping the fire burning isn’t so difficult when you slow down, take time to listen with heart and head, and are willing to step back a bit to see the perspective of the one you love. Emotions can get messy and muddy the waters. But communicating how you feel with patience, respect and honor for one other can only strengthen and deepen the love that brought you together in the first place.