How to communicate with your partner: Up the positivity!

how to communicate with your partner

This will be the final installment of our series, how to communicate with your partner. The last topic we are focusing on is positivity. There is no doubt that a positive outlook on life has plenty of rewards. People who maintain a sunny disposition and in general find the brighter side of life enjoy better emotional health. The rewards of positivity go beyond just your own emotional heath, increasing positivity also results in a longer lifespan, reduced risk of cardiovascular complications, increased resistance to illness and more.

The question remains though, is positivity an expression of happiness or can it create more happiness. In her often cited paper on positive thinking, Dr. Barbara Fredrickson says “positive emotions signal optimal functioning, but this is far from their whole story. I argue that positive emotions also produce optimal functioning, not just within the present, pleasant moment, but over the longterm as well.” What if you were to apply this idea to your relationship.  Many couples struggle with where to start when conflict and strife have become the norm in the marriage.  A wonderful place to start is with positivity. When you are struggling with how to communicate with your partner and are stuck wondering how to open the door to conversation, up the positivity.  Not only will up-ing the positivity make the day to day experience of your relationship a bit brighter it will increase the overall health and stability of your marriage.

Positivity is an action you can take to learn how to communicate with your partner.

Here are 5 actions you can take today to shift the positivity meter in the right direction. Continue reading How to communicate with your partner: Up the positivity!

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Communication with your spouse: Win win decision making.

This week is all about win win decision making.  Last week’s post was about the importance of staying in the calm zone but what happens next? After you have noticed the signs that you are reaching your anger ceiling you have hopefully walked away, taken some time to cool off and then you return to the conversation.

Communication with your spouse isn't always easy
Communication with your spouse isn’t always easy. The right skills can make all the difference.

So what’s the next step? How can you enhance communication with your spouse in a way that allows you to tackle a tough topic and move out of conflict and into a collaborative decision making stance? WIN WIN decision making is the answer. Yes, there are a few communication basics that are helpful to understand like avoiding crossovers and learning effective listening strategies that we have covered in the past.  Once you have learned the basics, the next step is to use the win win strategies outlined by Dr. Susan Heitler in her book and workbook and skills taught at Power of Two online. Continue reading Communication with your spouse: Win win decision making.

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Communicate with your spouse: During an argument.

In continuing with our mini-series on how to communicate with your spouse, this weeks installment is about navigating this tough communication road block: an argument.  Now, the idea of communicating with your spouse during an argument is a bit misleading because in truth you can’t! Effective arguing or “fighting fair” is something you occasionally hear as a solution to couples fighting.  In reality, effective arguing is an oxymoron.

communicate with your spouse
Don’t even try to communicate in this state. Instead, walk away, calm down and come back later.

When arguments are heated and tempers are flaring your brain, under the influence of adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormone) is actually incapable of making rational decisions.  The parts of your brain responsible for rational thinking and problem solving (the cortex) take a back seat to the lower, more primitive part of your brain, (you know, the old fight or flight part) the limbic system.  The limbic system, also know as the emotional center of your brain is not designed for calm, logical thought, you are better off putting the conversation in park until you can reactivate the cortex. Continue reading Communicate with your spouse: During an argument.

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How to communicate with your spouse: On a date

We are going to be running a short series here on the Power of Two blog over the next few weeks.  Let’s call it a mini-course on how to communicate with your spouse.  Essentially it boils down to this, communication in marriage is essential and so many folks struggle with how to do it! When you stop communicating with a spouse or partner it’s a signal that something may be wrong, but what?  Why did you stop talking?  Or maybe you talk to each other all day, and at the same time never really share anything deeper than the surface anymore.  Remember when you were first dating, falling in love or getting married, did it ever feel like there wasn’t enough time in the day to talk to each other about life, dreams, ideas, art, music, books? Getting back to that level of conversation may take time, just like anything else though you just have to start somewhere.  Here an idea of where to start…

Ask good questions.

Sounds simple right? Learning to talk to each other again is a process and takes some time and practice. Taking the time to learn new skills is invaluable for any relationship. One of the core skills groups we teach Power of Two is talking and listening.  Talking about thoughts, feelings, ideas, wishes without falling into the crossover trap and listening to learn.  While these skills require effort and time to learn, there are simple steps you can take to start to turn things around today.

We are kicking off this series in honor of Valentine’s day. The theme of this post is how to communicate with your spouse, on a date. If you are one of the lucky ones who managed to secure a babysitter and get reservations at a romantic restaurant you may want to spend a little time thinking about how to intentionally reconnect to partner while you have the time carved out. Even if you plan to stay home and do something more low key, you can invite a deeper experience with a little thought ahead of time. Continue reading How to communicate with your spouse: On a date

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Marriage problems and technoference: How to ditch the device for better communication.

marriage problems
Put the phones down to connect with your partner

What does your cell phone have to do with marriage problems? Recently, several prominent news sources have presented surveys and research that point to the problem with cell phones and romantic relationships.  One survey reported that “70 percent of women said smartphones were interfering in their romantic relationship.” That’s a huge number of women! In NPR’s recent story  “technoference” was citied as a serious problem in relationships. Aside from the question of what you are actually doing on the device, the accessibility and pervasiveness of  the devices in our lives is causing several problems.  Cell phones are the worst kind of distraction, the convenience of access to all your email accounts, the camera, the social media accounts, not to mention the thousands of other apps you can fill your device with offer an endless stream of information. This coupled with the dings, ringtones and other alerts that make everyone in the room look at their phone in some sort of pavlovian response to a bell are bound to cause marriage problems.

There are certainly big questions to answer individually and culturally about the influence these devices have on our lives. Technology no doubt has it’s place in daily life.  If we can thoughtfully engage with it it can actually be used for good in the relationship.  Time savings is one instance that can benefit your romantic relationships.  If you are able to take care of a task like paying bills that may have in the past taken up precious evening time at the kitchen table you can use that time you’ve gained to connect with your spouse, but do you? The evidence seems pretty clear that by and large they are causing more marriage problems than they solve. In her research, Sarah Coyne, boiled it down to this, “What I think the most important finding is, the more you let the technology interfere, the more conflict you have with your spouse or partner and that leads to not feeling great about the relationship.” So where is the balance?  Obviously this question is best left to each couple to navigate, provided the right skills are there to actually have a win win outcome!

So here are a few tips for curbing the potential marriage problems caused by technoference… Continue reading Marriage problems and technoference: How to ditch the device for better communication.

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How to cultivate gratitude in your marriage this holiday season.

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude”

A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

The holiday season and particularly Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to take stock in your marriage.  These few weeks from Thanksgiving to New Years can get really crazy, it’s also a wonderful time to cultivate gratitude in your marriage and make sure your relationship is getting a piece of the pie! Gratitude is more than just being thankful for something you have.  It is a state of being that can bring more love, positivity and peace and health into your life. Gratitude is an intentional act, gratitude in your marriage as in all things opens the door to deeper and more fulfilling relationship and holiday season.

gratitude in your marriage

Gratitude is the antidote to desire.  How is it that as a culture we have created the story that Thursday is the day to slow down, celebrate all that we already have and experience gratitude. Then comes black Friday where we are encouraged to hurry up, get to the store and compete with each other to satisfy our never ending need for things. Cultivating true gratitude will alleviate the need for the latest, greatest, cheapest goods and will allow love, respect and joy to be elevated in your marriage and beyond.

Here are a few ways to keep the focus on gratitude and kindness this holiday season… Continue reading How to cultivate gratitude in your marriage this holiday season.

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Healthy Marriage. What does that look like?

What is a healthy marriage?  This is an important question to answer in light of all the information we see and read (including on this blog) about a “healthy marriage.”  Benefits touted often include, better physical health, less depression, better outcomes for children and so much more.  How wonderful these benefits are, so how can we know what a healthy marriage is and how to achieve that standard in our own lives?

healthy marriage

Research done on this topic (see Moore et al., 2004, and NHMRC website http://www.healthymarriageinfo.org) resulted in this list…

• commitment to each other over the long haul
• positive communication
• ability to resolve disagreements and handle conflicts nonviolently
• emotional and physical safety in interaction
• sexual and psychological fidelity
• mutual respect
• spending enjoyable time together
• providing emotional support and companionship
• parents’ mutual commitment to their children

Let’s take a look at these one by one… Continue reading Healthy Marriage. What does that look like?

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Wondering how to make a relationship last?

Pay attention to the details.

When it comes to the causes of divorce there are the biggies…

Infidelity, physical emotional or otherwise.
Addiction and substance abuse.
Excessive anger or abuse.

And then there is the slow buildup of resentment, the everyday moments that turn from loving and attentive to bitter, angry, sour, mean or otherwise ignored. Over time these feelings can turn what was once a loving relationship into an unhappy disconnect that can lead couples to look for a way out. So here’s one way to start to turn things around today. Pay attention to the details!

Each day, moment after moment you have a choice about how to respond to and engage with your spouse or partner. Use each moment to make a change towards a more positive future. It is the compounding of these small moments that will make a relationship last.

make a relationship last

Here are a few steps you can take to stay focused on the moment in front of you and make it a positive one…

See your partner for who they are today. It is so easy to carry around with us the past hurts or failings of our loved ones.  Try to look past the fact that he didn’t pick up the dry cleaning last week, or the fact that she didn’t call when she said she would.  Instead try seeing your spouse for who they are today, right in front of you.  Give them the benefit of a new day to surprise you!

Forgive yourself and each other for slip-ups. Even the most skilled communicators and the most thoughtful people have bad days.  Try to take a more forgiving standpoint and say to yourself “oh he meant to say…” and look for what makes sense in what s/he said. Rather than reacting in an equally un-skilled way turn the conversation back in a positive direction.

Be a good listener. A marriage is hopefully a lasting pursuit.  Being in a relationship necessarily means you will be spending a good deal of time together.  It can be very easy to fall into the trap of not giving your full attention to a spouse or partner.  You may thing you’ve heard this story 10 times, or maybe you just get so accustomed to the day to day chatter.  Next time you are having a conversation stop, really listen to what is being shared.  You might be surprised at what you learn!

Express gratitude and appreciation for your partner. Couples who are struggling to make a relationship last will often share that they just don’t feel appreciated.  Days are busy, filled with work, social obligations, for some couples children. Remembering to appreciate your spouse if often left off the to do list.  Studies show that couples who continually express gratitude and appreciation for on another have deeper and more loving connections.  The good news is that you can increase the positivity today. Start with yourself, show genuine appreciation for your spouse and watch the love come back to you.

The bottom line is that small things add up.  They are the bricks that create a solid foundation.  Start paying attention to the details today and feel the warmth fill the room!

 

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Want more communication in relationships? Stop should-ing and start sharing.

Have you ever been around someone who just shoulds all over you? I recently spent some time with a very dear friend of mine who shoulds instead of shares, leading to a breakdown of communication in relationships.  He tells me I should do this and I should do that and I can’t help but feel instantly on the defensive. In the end, I stop listening. This friend is also one of the most caring and supportive friends I have, I know his intentions are well meaning. I know that what he is trying to do is share in the excitement he feels.

Do you have anyone in your life who “shoulds” you?

I have come to expect these sorts of interactions with this particular friend and to a certain degree they can sometimes just be what they are. On the other hand this kind of communication in relationships, specifically in a marriage can lead to real problems overtime. Defensiveness, bitterness, frustration, and hurt feelings can build up and leave you feeling unheard and uncared for.

At Power of Two we have a term for this kind of communication in relationships, it’s called a crossover. A crossover is essentially one person entering into another persons emotional territory.  Telling someone what they think, feel, are or in this case what they should think, feel, be or do.

communication in relationships

Are you guilty of shoulding? Here’s what you can do to stop “shoulding” on your loved ones?

Turn what would have been a should statement into and “I-statement” So…

“You should call your mother” could be “I wonder what’s happening with your mother?  When is the last time you two spoke?”

“You should eat more vegetables” could be “I feel healthier when I eat more vegetables. How would you feel about having a salad along with dinner tonight?

Remember the mantra “talk about yourself, ask about the other.” Keeping this simple idea in mind will help you keep the focus where it ought to be, yourself!

The cure for the crossover is the “I-statement”  essentially replacing the “you” with “I.”  I feel.., I think…, I want to…, I really enjoyed… followed by a how or what question. Not only are you able to share something meaningful to you, you are showing your friend and loved one that you are interested in what they think.  It’s a WIN WIN!!

No one wants to be told what to think, feel or do.  At the same time, sharing rich and meaningful experiences you have had with your partner, friends and loved ones is incredibly valuable and important.  So stop should-ing and start sharing to have more communication in your relationships!

 

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Communication in marriage is key for sex after kids.

Communication in marriage is a really important part of keeping your sex life active and fulfilling.  In a recent survey put together by YourTango and Trojan 1,055 parents were asked about their sex life post kids. Respondents answered 35 questions about their sex life. The info graphic below sums up the results quite well. While some of the results were to be expected, parents are tired and have much less time than they did prior to having children. What was surprising is that 40% of respondents said their communication was better post kids. So many couples struggle with what ends up as a sexless marriage. Avoiding this outcome requires learning what role communication in marriage play in your post kids sex life?  Continue reading Communication in marriage is key for sex after kids.

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