Like the majority of young people, my first car was, what you might affectionately call ‘a bomb’. It was a red Hillman Imp and I relied upon it to get me from one side of Adelaide to the other every day over the long hot South Australian summer. Predictably my trusty ‘Imp’ would make it to the railway crossing just a kilometre from home, where it would inevitably breakdown. What do you do when you find yourself sitting at a railway crossing with a growing line of weary motorists behind you? 1.Panic!! 2. Attempt to get the car going again. With each turn of the ignition, I brought my car closer to the brink of ‘extinction’ – the car battery expiring yet again! Mobile phones had not been invented yet (yes, I am that old!) so I walked home and my long-suffering father would come to the rescue with his jumper-leads to jump start the Imp back to life, and ready for the next journey across town.
This image of me sitting behind the wheel of my broken-down Hillman Imp, desperately turning that ignition over and over until it refused to respond at all is not dis-similar to the way couples often approach failing communication. You are stuck, repeating the same pattern over and over again, bringing your relationship inevitably closer to the brink of extinction. Communication breakdown is one of the most frequent complaints that couples bring to counselling. ‘He/she never listens!’ is a common catch cry that marks a relationship in crisis. When a couple fail to listen to each other, your needs go unmet within the relationship. In time, what might initially have felt like loneliness, anxiety and frustration turns into resentment, bitterness and anger. Your relationship, once so absorbing and satisfying, is reduced to constant bickering, lengthy silences and/or bitter arguments as you each desperately try to reach out and communicate your unmet needs to your partner.
Learning to listen effectively, when both of you feel ‘not heard’, is an incredibly difficult discipline to manage but not impossible. Called ‘active listening’, effective communication requires commitment, time and practice.
Here are 8 tips that will ‘jump-start’ communication again:
1. Take Turns. Each partner gets to be the complainer for fifteen minutes.
2. Don’t give unsolicited advice. The major rule when helping your partner de-stress is that understanding must precede advice.
3. Show genuine interest. Don’t let your mind or eyes wander. Try to stay intently focused on your partner.
4. Communicate your understanding. Let your partner know that you can and are empathizing with what they are saying.
5. Take your partner’s side. This means being supportive, even if you think that part of his or her perspective is unreasonable. It’s all about perspective! Don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees – if your relationship is important to you, it is likely more important than your opinion about the intricacies of your mate’s conversation with their boss. Again, understanding must precede advice.
6. Express a “we against others” attitude. Let him or her know that the two of you are in this together. That you are a team.
7. Express affection. Hold your partner, put an arm on his or her shoulder, and say, “I love you.”
8. Validate emotions. Let your partner know that his or her feelings make sense to you by telling them just that.
If you are experiencing difficulties in your couple relationship and need direction and support to restore communication, repair your relationship and reach toward your full relational potential then here’s what you need to do contact me on 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how I can best help you or press book now to book on my online diary.