As a psychologist, I’ve spent time with hundreds of unhappy couples. They usually arrive with many stories to tell about how their partner has upset and disappointed them. Rather than having them repeat their laundry list of complaints, I try to switch things up. Often, I ask them to tell me what their partner is concerned about. It’s interesting to watch how long they can talk about the other person without launching into their own version of events.
Next, we work on tools for happy relationships. I’ve been asked what I think are the essential tools for relationship bliss. Here is my no frills list of things to do (and not do) if your aim is harmony:
Do at all times:
- Be respectful.
- Learn their love language and speak it instead of your own. Convey appreciation
- Show interest in their ideas.
- Think the best of them. Assume their intentions and judgment are good.
Do this often:
- Don’t just listen to the other side. Repeat what they have said to show that you understand them even if you disagree.
- Note: If people are repeating themselves, it may be a sign that they don’t think everyone really “got it.” They won’t stop repeating themselves until you show that you understand them. Contradicting them won’t work. Earn their attention by showing you have noted their points.
- Smile and laugh. Glowering makes problems seem bigger. Smiling makes life more fun.
Do this as needed:
- Apologize for your missteps because no one is perfect. Ask what they need to hear in an apology and make sure you include apology words that are essential to them. For many people, sorry isn’t enough.
Don’t do these things because they shut down communication:
- Crossing your arms defensively.
- Using extreme words like “always”, “none” and “never”. This is rarely true and it invites squabbling.
- Blaming others.
- Making excuses for yourself.
- Denying problems you have caused.
- Mocking and mimicking.
- Assuming the other person has bad intentions.
- Acting like the other person is a bad person.
Try not to do these things because they are hostile:
- Pointing your finger.
- Slamming or throwing things.
- Cussing and calling names.
Try not to do these things because they are unhealthy:
- Escalating an argument in front of your kids.
- Drawing your kids or friends into an ongoing argument or asking them to back you up.
- Refusing to let the other person leave when they have asked for some breathing room.
In short, there are plenty of practical steps you can take to be more user-friendly for others. This list could go on and on: respect the space of others, let bygones be bygones, and don’t hit below the belt.
What is your advice for blissful relationships? Leave a comment and be entered in my monthly drawing for a $20 Amazon gift card.