Alright, so you fell in love, swapped rings, promised to stand beside your lover for all of your days, laid out on the sand for a week, and now you’re home and you’re starting to think you may have hitched yourself to an alien. Everything about this strange and attractive person is weirder and less normal than you ever thought possible. And as the novelty of marriage wears off, and everyday life takes over, it can get easier to let everything—little and big issues—affect you more than it did in the early days of your relationship.
Don’t let resentment, contempt, or silence kill the spark; use these five tips to communicate your way to and through a healthy relationship.
The basic definition of respect is to have a deep admiration for someone based on who they are. Remembering who you partner is as a person—his or her character, personality, positive qualities and accomplishments—can immediately elevate your relationship above trivial issues and emotional pitfalls. Respecting your partner allows you to let the little things go, reduce negative and picky comments, and foster mutual appreciation. Make a list of things you admire about your partner (sometimes it can be easy to forget these!) and go out of your way to let him or her know what you respect and like about who he or she is.
Yes, your partner is irrational, difficult, and weird—and so are you. Keeping a realistic view of your own faults and failures can help you be more forgiving when your partner messes up. We all know that no one is perfect, but when we remember to include ourselves in that, our responses become a lot more gracious.
Use “I” Statements
Using statements that start with “I” is a good way to foster good communication. Instead of “You always do that” or “You’re so inconsiderate,” a more gentle response that your partner will be less likely to perceive as attacking is “I feel hurt when you…” or “I would feel better if we…” Constructive conversations are easier when one or both of you isn’t feeling defensive.
When you’re upset, what do you want to hear? It’s likely that you tend to feel better if someone responds with “I understand how you felt that way,” rather than immediately launching into a response explaining how you are wrong. If you and your partner can make a pact to always validate each other’s feelings before explaining your own positions, your relationship will flourish. This is easier said than done, but with practice it will become more of a habit.
Keep Calm and Carry On
Studies have shown that, although talking through issues can help calm you down, expressing yourself in anger (yelling, screaming, ranting) actually increases your anger rather than dissipates it. These are self-defeating tactics, and escalate the situation rather than resolve it. Anger is a positive emotion, when used correctly: it is an innate sign that something isn’t right and needs to be addressed. But take responsibility and identify what the root issue is—anger is often a cover-up for a deeper emotion of simply feeling hurt. Take deep breaths, take ten minutes, take a few hours: whatever you need to sort through your emotions and find clear ways to explain your thoughts and feelings.