Here are a couple simple ways to enhance your relationship by creating more trust and respect:
1. Make sure you tell your partner what you love about them often. Pat them on the back for their accomplishments even if it is something they do routinely. If you constantly serve up criticism, break the habit. You may be surprised how this can change your relationship for the better.
2. If your partner does something or says something that angers you or doesn’t fit your vision of life together, be curious. Find out where she/he is coming from. If you tell your partner he/she is wrong or they make no sense, there is no room for productive discussion. They interpret you as saying their thought is invalid and they are invalid. The result is usually a defensive argument, with each of you at some level defending your self-worth and sense of pride. Alternatively, you could say I respect your opinion and at first thought disagree. Respecting each others opinion can lead to a rich open discussion that may bring you closer instead of separating you even more.
3. If you are holding on to a criticism that you believe needs to be expressed, pick a time when you both are relaxed and in a mellow mood. Ask her/him if this is a good time to hear something that may be difficult. If they say no, try to arrange a different time. Giving your partner a choice when to hear difficult words is not only showing respect, but contributes to a more positive outcome.
In the next blog I will discuss how to communicate criticisms. In the mean time good luck and may you have harmony in your life.
A Third person in the Session Room
I truly love to do couples counseling and there are many reasons why a third person in the session room can help you in your process of change and growth. We evolved as a species within groups, families, and couples. If you are unable to interact effectively with your friends, partners, and families, you will be isolated and dissatisfied. This will often lead to depression, anxiety and an unresolvable series of conflicts, disengagement or apathy with your partner.
I believe that we all have inherent abilities to communicate intimate thoughts and feelings with people in our lives. Because of events throughout your developmental years that were hurtful, you may be willing to shut yourself down and hide intimate feelings and thoughts underneath fear, self-consciousness and guilt. Often you are unaware of your intimate feelings and thus unable to express them, they come out in the form of anger, irritation and frustration focused outward on the people you love.
One way to get beyond this dilemma is to do couples counseling with you, your partner or friend and the therapist. In this setting the therapist will facilitate the creation of a safe place to explore the cycles or patterns of interaction that are the antagonists to your relationship, not your partner. This means having both partners in the room for most of the sessions. Remember that in any relationship, all of the parties have a role in determining the tenor of the interactions.
Often I get a call from a spouse asking me to work with their partner. Usually I suggest that they both come in and that they do couples counseling together. I suggest proceeding this way even if one of the partners has issues separate from the relationship. This is because issues in the relationship can heighten tension around personal problems. I find that the best outcomes happen when each partner is enlisted as a support for the other.