John and Laura just cant seem to see eye to eye in their marriage anymore. They feel that all they do is argue about little things, never finding a resolution. They feel like every day is a struggle to connect and they are starting to resent each other. Like John and Laura, all couples experience communication problems at one time or another. However, couples can move beyond arguing by developing their communication skills. Professional marriage counselors and relationship experts suggest several successful strategies for overcoming disagreements.
Set aside time to talk. Psychologists agree that you cant communicate effectively about hot-button issues when you are rushing out the door to work, wrangling with the kids, or thinking about your to-do list. You need to give your marriage the same time and attention that you spend on other aspects of your life. Make a date to discuss your feelings, then sit down with your spouse in a relaxed setting.
Create goals. Before sitting down to the conversation with your partner, spend some time thinking about your desired end-result. What are your hopes for resolving your marital issues? Too many arguments continue simply because both sides dont know what they want from their partner. If you have a hard time defining your goals, a session or two with a professional life coach or relationship counselor may be helpful.
Be positive. When talking with your spouse, stay positive. Dont badger, criticize, stonewall, or get defensive. These are negative strategies that will hinder the connection between you and your partner, leading to even more resentment and anger. If negativity has taken over your relationship, seek out relationship advice for learning new ways to reach out to your spouse.
Stay on topic. Sometimes it feels like one problem leads to another, but dont let yourself get bogged down by dealing with it all at once. Focus on one issue at a time. One marriage counselor, Joseph Abraham, Ph.D., suggests, If couples feel challenged by staying on topic, I often coach them to write down their goal and keep it in hand during the conversation with their spouse.
Use active listening. Nothing tells your partner that you dont care like appearing to not listen. Set aside distractions like the cell phone and work. Face each other and be sure to use good eye contact. Professional counselors use specific techniques that can help you too. For instance, paraphrasing your partners perspective can go a long way in showing off your listening skills.
Take a time out. If things get too intense and the conversation turns negative, take a break. Professionals affirm that its OK to say, I need some time to clarify what I want in this conversation. Lets talk again in a bit. Temporarily walking away can
help you stay solution-focused. Dont forget to finish the conversations thoughmarriages wont work for long if all the issues are swept under the rug!
Get help. Good communication is not necessarily a natural skill. If you and your partner have a difficult time implementing these strategies, a marriage counselor can help. Professional counselors are trained to be neutral parties that can help you get past relationship hurdles by learning successful communication strategies.