Are you stuck for a Valentines Day gift this year?
Are you tired of chocolates and flowers?
Might you be tempted to give a gift as a way of trying to make up for relationship difficulties?
Everything goes well for a while, but then you’re left at the end of an argument wondering what just happened.
Flowers and fancy gadgets won’t fix this.
Instead, try the gift of Communication this Valentines Day. This might even sound a bit wishy-washy or even a bit scary but approaching your partner with an open mind and open heart is probably the best way to start better communications with your partner.
No “I love you but…”
Express genuine love. Unconditionally. No “I love you, but…” or “I love you, by the way, did you pick up the dry cleaning?” Just say “I love you.” Do it while looking straight in their eyes and then leave it hanging there, without any expectation of a return comment. If that’s out of character then perhaps the two of you have a special phrase that will get the same message across.
Assume best intentions
Do you believe in love? Believe that your partner has your best interests at heart, even if it doesn’t sound like it to you. They could probably explain to you in great deal how the hurtful thing they said wasn’t what they meant and what you were supposed to hear, and that they really do love you. So don’t make them feel like they need to explain all that. Just trust them.
Replace Absolutes with Qualifiers
When you put all the blame on your partner or say that they “always” do this thing you don’t like or they “never” do the things you ask, they may instinctively react defensively or even aggressively.
Blaming yourself or being passive is just as bad. That just encourages people to walk all over you.
Try using this phrase instead
“I feel x when you do y” ( x is what you are feeling and y is a fact)
I feel sad when we argue
I feel happy when we get a bit of time to ourselves
I feel worried when you are late home from work
Or the reverse way:
When you are late home, I get scared
When we argue in front of the kids, I feel terrible
You don’t need to be right all the time
If you keep insisting on being right then eventually your partner won’t want to bring up important disagreements, figuring that you’ll never really entertain their ideas anyway. And those big ones are the ones that could inspire them to leave you some day.
Just stop long enough to see how it could be correct for them. You can always follow it up, like this, “You’re right. I can see how that could make sense if you’re six feet tall, but from down here, I’m looking right at a part of that statue I don’t want to see.”
Comparing your partner to other men or women in your life can belittle and create tension. Even positive comparison can leave a niggling doubt in one’s mind about what you might be really feeling.
Start by appreciating the small things “Thanks for remembering to buy the milk,” lets them know that you notice the little things they are doing and that you appreciate them.
Keep Your Focus on Today
Have you ever had a little argument that suddenly exploded into something much bigger? One moment you’re discussing whose job it was to take the car in for an MOT and the next you’re loudly discussing how irresponsible that one of you is and how overbearing the other can be.
All of a sudden one of you starts dragging up negative situations from the past.
Somewhere in the argument you started thinking about other times similar things had happened. You remembered how that argument hadn’t been resolved to your satisfaction. And each of those past instances added to the weight of the argument, making it snowball. It’s no longer just about that car MOT its now about ‘how this is so typical of you…”
When you store up resentments and problems you make each one that follows bigger and more important, even though the matter at hand is relatively small. It’s a bit like the phrase, ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back”. There are two things that don’t work with this. One is that it becomes very difficult to solve the current problem with all the weight of the past behind it. The other is that you’re in an uncomfortable and unhappy state of mind and making yourself miserable.
To avoid this problem you need to let go of your resentment over each small thing. Push it aside, or, even better, forgive your partner for being human too.
If one of you forgets to do important things on a regular basis then you need to talk about that problem when you’re both otherwise calm, not when you’re arguing about the most recent slip-up.
Look at Your Partner Through New Eyes
A more subtle way that the past can trip you up is if you’re expecting someone to behave the same way again and again when he or she really did change. You might notice an increase in the times your partner remembers to get things done, but still make jokes about them being late, which reinforces the bad behavior instead of the good. Or maybe they’ve just been growing up without you noticing.
Every so often take a mental inventory. Is something different than it used to be? Ask your partner some of the questions you asked when you were dating. Maybe the answers have changed because they can look at things from a different perspective.
Remember the Good Times, Past and Present
Of course, there is a time when it’s good to focus on the past. Remembering the good times together with your partner is a way to strengthen the bond between you.
Spend the day thinking about what your partner does well and all the things you love about them. If this is difficult, then think back to your earliest attractions and bring those memories to the front of your mind. Tell your partner a few of them. Remember that people tend to live up, or down, to your expectations and if you look for the good things, you might find more of them. So set aside the ease of seeing faults in someone you are with all the time and see the best parts instead.
Point out something positive about your life together. Maybe you could look around and comment on how much you like the room, or how pleased you are that the two of you were able to build this house. Most anything will do as long as there is genuine happiness behind it.
One of the simplest ways to another’s heart is to listen to them. Really listen, not just hear most of their words. It’s simple, but it’s not always easy.
These are three things you don’t do while you are listening.
Don’t think about other things while your partner is talking. No big football game. No bills that need to get paid. You need to concentrate on what they’re saying, how they’re saying it, and what they probably mean by it. This is called being present to the situation.
Don’t interrupt your partner whilst they are talking. Make sure they’re finished what they have to say before you start talking. Exactly how you know this will depend on the person involved. Some people pause longer than others while they’re still talking or put different stops and lilts at the ends of their sentences.
Don’t get defensive. This can be a matter of controlling your tone or of simply asking “How?” instead of “Why?” when you need more information. This may not seem like part of listening, but getting defensive usually convinces the other person that you weren’t really paying attention to what they were saying since he or she often doesn’t mean to attack.
These are three things you want to do while you’re listening.
Do repeat back what you are hearing in your own words. This isn’t to be patronising but rather to make sure that you understand what your partner said. If you put it in your words and they don’t agree with them, then you can both try again.
Do listen to more than just the words. You need to pay attention to body language also. If your partner is talking to you, but standing with their arms crossed or playing with their hair or clothing, then they might be the one not paying full attention, even if you are listening carefully. You can also see signs that people have more to say than they are willing to admit.
Do ask questions. Just make sure that they are open-ended questions, ones that don’t have a yes or no answer. They can be about feelings, possible alternatives, or what advice they can be giving you.
Make it Last
Don’t take back the gift of an open heart and mind on February 15th. Instead give it again, and again, day after day until it is returned and the exchange of trust becomes second nature to you both.