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How to improve communication in your relationship

Dr Elizma van der Smit May 2018

· Relationships

Having difficult conversations with your partner reflects that you care enough for your partner as well as for your relationship. Communication is the only way to find out what your partner thinks and why they act in a certain way. Without it, a relationship cannot be maintained.

By learning how to communicate effectively with your partner will strengthen your trust, honesty and respect for each other and the relationship. Good communication is therefore the glue that keeps your relationship together.

1. What are the rules for good communication? • Focus on the way you address a problem Do not delay difficult conversations. Assume that it will be stressful and that you can become both  defensive or emotional. Do not invite your partner to a movie or a meal after which you plan to have "the conversation". Be honest and agree on a time and place that you will have a discussion. Never attempt these types of conversations in the heat of battle or immediately afterwards. Give your partner a chance to calm down and think about it but try to complete it within 48 hours. Do not start with "we have to talk". Start with "What do you think about ..." or "I'd like to hear  your opinion about ...". Keep it simple and stay on one topic. "A spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down" is a well-known line from the Mary  Poppins movie. It's good advice when you have something to say to someone that they do not want to hear. Treat it like a hamburger (meat patty between two sandwiches). Start with something positive, deliver your short and powerful message and end up with something positive again. E.g. "Thank you for the effort and what you do for me, but the way you spoke to me today is totally unacceptable.  Thank you for listening.” Try to use statements like "us" or "I feel" instead of an accusing "me" or "you". "You will  always ..." or "you never do ..." may be true but pointing to fingers makes it impossible to  solve any problems. Do not talk about the problem for hours on end but work together to find a solution. • Even if you deliver your message in the right way, you are still in a relationship with a  person who will show a human response. You may have prepared for hours on how to have a certain conversation with your partner. However, your partner did not have that advantage and his / her response will not be well thought through. Whatever your partner says on this point, it will be your job to stay calm. Please note, all this  happens before you talk about the detail. The detail must only be discussed after you have your partner’s cooperation, otherwise it will develop into a fight. Good communication happens in phases. Do not try to overcome a long-term problem in one conversation. Here are 4 possible responses from your partner and how to deal with it: 1. Your partner agrees that there is a problem. Great! You have the type of relationship that is far in the minority! Try focusing on the solutions rather than how the problems originated in the first  place. Regularly follow up with plans that you have made together. 2. Your partner immediately begins to blame you. If this happens, your relationship is in the  majority. This is not a bad position, as it implicates that your partner realizes that there is indeed a  problem. If this happens, try listening without trying to defend yourself or to propose solutions. Try to agree with your partner wherever possible and do not start arguing. Also, do not threaten your partner. 3. Your partner denies that there are any problems. Then it's your job to make your partner  aware, as people in denial need help to become aware of a problem before they will do anything about it. Do not focus directly on the issue, but suggest ways to improve the relationship, for example, more romance or a "budget" so you can enjoy more activities together. 4. Your partner is threatening to leave the relationship. If this happens, do not panic. If serious  problems have come over a long period of time, it is obvious that your partner will consider  terminating the relationship. Do not attack but agree that both of you must make sure that it is the right choice. If you deal with this properly, it can open communication channels in ways that you did not think  was possible. Consider professional help. 2. How to deal with hurtful things from the past? Women often bring up things from the past as they want you to understand and feel how they felt.  She wants to feel safe with you and be ensured that you will protect her from similar sorrow at all  costs. Keep in mind that women's emotions are processed and stored differently. She will bring up  things from the past for as long as she feels you do not understand! What should we do? Men, give your partner a chance to vent and talk about it. Remember, even if she's talking about  you, it's not really about you, but it's about something that hurt her feelings deeply. Do your best to  listen and try to understand. Give her the assurance she needs so that she can also be able to put the past behind her. However, women must realize and understand that men do not process their emotions in the same way. Women use the past to analyze and determine how good or bad the relationship is doing. Men do not evaluate the relationship in the same way. Men are problem solvers and believe that once a problem has been discussed, it is therefore resolved and should disappear. For them, old cows are exhausting and have no sense bringing it up again. Thus, women try to let the past go and rather focus on the present. In order to communicate effectively, we need to focus on the problem at hand. You cannot dwell in  the past and expect progress at the same time. It only causes bitterness and prevents current  problems of being discussed and resolved.
4. How to ensure that you spend enough time telling your partner good and loving things: Consider setting time apart to have a short, calm and solution-driven conversation about your relationship. Ask questions like "How can I show you better love?" Or "What was good about our relationship during the past week?". "Is there something you want me to pay more attention to in the coming week?". If you would like long-term success in your relationship, do not forget to tell your partner the following things every day:I miss you. Sending this message to your partner by text or mail will make them feel appreciated. If you're away from your partner, please send me a message with the likes of "I cannot wait to be  with you". • How was your day? Do not run a tirade over your own bad day as soon as you enter the house. • Do you remember the time when we ... Remind your partner of the special times you shared.  This will make both of you remember why your relationship was so special in the first place. • How can I help? Relieve your companion's stress by offering your help when they feel overwhelmed. • What do you think? Share big and small decisions with your partner. • You are so beautiful / attractive. If you do not compliment your partner, how can you expect  them to feel special and appreciated. Compliment their appearance and actions regularly. • Let's meet half way. Do not try to prove who is right and who is wrong but work together as a  team in finding a solution. • I am sorry. Everyone makes mistake., Be humble enough to acknowledge your mistakes and  accept responsibility for it. • Please and thank you. Notice the little things and treat your partner with respect and good  manners. • I love you. It does not matter how long you know a person, these three words will always have significance. • I am proud of you. Recognize your partner's achievements and demonstrate your support. • I'm here for you. Be a rock to your partner when they are going through difficult times. • Enjoy it. Give your partner enough space to do the things that they enjoy.

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This post is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered therapy.This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental Health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.

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This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.