Love on a Locomotive: All Aboard!
Tips for Better Communication with your Partner
Both of you are shoveling coal but where? Are your efforts at communication going into the same furnace powering your relationship, or are you throwing half of your coal out of the window with bad habits or indirectness? Communicating with your partner fires the engines and heats the steam driving the health of your coupling. The focus and effort to stay with the conversation and moment that is happening keeps the communication moving productively. Distraction and inattentiveness are hazards when maintaining your locomotive. What would 20-30 minutes a day catching up with your partner look like?
Not wanting to bring up difficult topics is natural. Displeasure and disappointment happen and the best way to clear obstacles of connection is to talk about it. Try to use “I feel statements” along with the intent to not harm when communicating on troublesome matters. “I feel worn out by being a primary parent.” or “I feel disappointed by this situation.” Hard feelings block the tracks of communication. Ignoring a fallen tree on the tracks won’t clear it out of the way. Starting with an open heart, what would you want to bring to your spouse?
Listen open-heartedly. It can be a habit to respond to criticism or conflict with defensiveness. Your partner’s narrative is their story that they need to express. It is not an attack if you choose to listen to the heart of the matter. Listen with love and intent to really hear what they are telling you. Even if they are asking for you to do something differently, this is not changing who you are. Just how you do something. We are all incredible creations in flawed silly sacks.
Forgive. Put the old story down. Try to stay in the present. What is your goal in your communication? Form your words around the goals to lead to a stronger relationship. Work as a team to look ahead and challenge yourself to catch the habit of looking back.
State exactly what you need. How do you want to be listened to? “I want you to listen until all of my words are finished.” “I want help coming up with alternative solutions.” Are you asking for specifically what you are needing? “I need a break” vs. “How can we work out that I have 2 hours to myself in the next few days”. The more specific you are, the better chance you’ll get what you are aiming for.
State the end goal first. Just like a train pulls out of the station knowing its destination, clear communication works well when starting with the end in mind. Spell out what you want to get from the conversation. What’s the goal of this communication?
Keep stoking the fire with positive words of affirmation and appreciation.